Constitution Day 2013

Constitution - #2  by Diane Rufino

Last Tuesday was Constitution Day – September 17.  It marks the day that the Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 concluded and the final draft of Constitution was signed by the delegates who attended.  It is fitting that this is the day we choose to honor the US Constitution.  As we all probably know, the Convention was called in a somewhat devious and misleading manner.  James Madison and others from Virginia called the Convention (after securing a promise that the most beloved man in America would serve as its president – George Washington) for the express purpose of AMENDING the Articles of Confederation and tweaking the Continental Congress (the government at the time) to make it more effective. The most glaring defect of the common government was its ability to raise the revenue it needed to carry out its functions.

All the states sent delegates except Rhode Island.  And so 12 of our original 13 states participated in Philadelphia. Collectively they appointed 70 individuals to the Constitutional Convention.  But a number of our most important Founding Fathers did not accept or could not attend. These included Richard Henry Lee (of VA), Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock. Jefferson, who authored the Declaration, was overseas at the time, acting as Minister to France. And Patrick Henry did not trust the intentions of some of the delegates.  He found out the real intention of the Convention – to scratch the Articles entirely and to write a new Constitution and design a new government.  Patrick Henry suspected that New York’s delegate, Alexander Hamilton, a strong monarchist, would try to get his way and fashion our new government after the British Monarchy. And so Henry declined to go to Philadelphia, claiming: “I smell a rat.”

And so when a total of 55 delegates from the states met in Philadelphia, they soon found out the real purpose of the gathering. Some did not take the news very well and argued that they did not have the proper authority to abandon the Articles of Confederation.  James Madison, George Mason and Edmond Randolph, all of Virginia, arrived in Philadelphia well-prepared. In fact, Madison was the first to arrive.  He arrived in February, three months before the convention began, with a Plan already prepared and a blueprint for the new Constitution and government in place. Although he authored the Plan, it was Randolph, who was Governor of Virginia at the time, who proposed it at the Convention – in the form of 15 resolutions. It was known as the Virginia Plan. It called for a strong NATIONAL government with many centralized functions and also with a UNIVERSAL VETO power over the States.  Madison called it a “universal negative.” Under Madison’s Virginia’s Plan, the government would have the power to veto any state law “for any case whatsoever.”

Luckily, the Virginia delegation couldn’t sell all of their plan to the other states and the Convention turned out to be a 4-month exercise in compromise and well-intentioned debate.  In the end, on September 17th, we got a constitution that created a limited FEDERAL government.  It was quite different in many respects from the government that the Virginians proposed. Luckily, the overwhelming number of delegates at the Convention that year did not believe in concentrating too much power in a common government; they believed that government is most responsive when it is closest to the People and so they remained steadfast that the bulk of government power must remain with the States.  A government that is closest to the People can serve them best and can be “altered or abolished” by them when circumstances demand it.

The delegates ranged in age from Jonathan Dayton (of NJ), aged 26, to Benjamin Franklin, aged 81, who was so infirm that he had to be carried to sessions in a chair. They brought with them the interests of their States and their people. They brought with them a wealth of knowledge and a keen eye on the prize they fought for in the American Revolution (which Patrick Henry would later describe as “that precious jewel – Liberty”).  They brought with them their understanding of what a common government should do to serve them and also to serve a common good for all States.  Not one State intended to surrender its sovereignty or its influence.  Not one state intended to surrender its individual identity for a “national” identity.

In the close of the Convention, only 39 delegates would feel compelled to sign the Constitution.  Many refused to sign because there was no Bill of Rights.  More than half of the Virginia delegation wouldn’t sign, including Mr. Randolph himself and George Mason (who wrote Virginia’s Bill of Rights). Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts was another powerhouse that refused to sign it.  A Bill of Rights, they argued, was an absolute necessity to limit any government.

The particular opposition by George Mason is most compelling.  While Elbridge Gerry was, by most accounts, cantankerous, irritable, and most disagreeable to many things and Randolph was likely sulking since his Plan was rejected in good part and believing that the States would ultimately reject a new constitution anyway, it was Mason who refused to sign based on pure principle.

George Mason didn’t trust a large republican government…  not without a Bill of Rights, that’s for certain.  He believed certain stipulations were necessary to protect the liberties of the People from the reaches of government.  James Madison, on the other hand, argued against a Bill of Rights. It was his position that such stipulations weren’t necessary due to the nature of the Constitution. He argued that the Constitution specifically enumerated the powers that were delegated to the federal government. That is, the document explained what the government COULD do and not what it COULD NOT do.  He feared if a Bill of Rights was included, it could ultimately backfire on the People. He feared that if a Bill of Rights was added to prohibit the government from intruding on rights A, B, and C, then it could be inferred that the government could intrude on rights D, E, and F. Madison explained that if you listed some individual rights, you must list them all and that would necessarily change the Constitution from forbidding the federal government from doing anything not enumerated to something that allows the government do whatever it wants as long as it is not listed in a Bill of Rights.

But Mason wasn’t convinced by fellow his fellow Virginian’s rationale.  For Mason, it came down to principal, basic human nature, and the enormity of history that taught us what happens when government has the ability to concentrate power. In early 1776, before Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights and helped frame Virginia’s constitution. George Mason was exceedingly proud of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, and was pleased that it became a model for other states. In part, the Declaration of Rights provided:

SEC.1 That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

SEC. 2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.

SEC.3.  Government is, or ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration and […] when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

The document had sixteen sections, but it’s quite clear that these short paragraphs encompassed America’s Founding Principles, which Thomas Jefferson would later incorporate into the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Mason simply did not trust a government to police itself.

Even Thomas Jefferson agreed.  He wrote James Madison from his post in France that a Bill of Rights should be added: “A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”

The decision of whether to add a Bill of Rights ultimately came down to the States in their Ratifying Conventions. And George Mason, along with Patrick Henry, would do all they could to derail the ratification of the Constitution until proper assurances and restraints were added.

At the Virginia Ratifying Convention in June 4, 1788, Mason took the floor and addressed the delegates:  “Does any man suppose that one general national government can exist in so extensive a country as this? I hope that a government may be framed which may suit us, by drawing a line between the general and state governments, and prevent that dangerous clashing of interest and power, which must, as it now stands, terminate in the destruction of one or the other. When we come to the judiciary, we shall be more convinced that this government will terminate in the annihilation of the state governments: the question then will be, whether a consolidated government can preserve the freedom and secure the rights of the people.  If such amendments be introduced as shall exclude danger, I shall most gladly put my hand to it. When such amendments as shall, from the best information, secure the great essential rights of the people, shall be agreed to by gentlemen, I shall most heartily make the greatest concessions, and concur in any reasonable measure to obtain the desirable end of conciliation and unanimity…”

Patrick Henry accused the Virginia delegation of abandoning the spirit of the Revolution by taking the Constitution at face value and trusting a common government to respect the sovereign powers of the States and limit itself to expressly-delegated objects.  On June 5, 1788, he addressed the members of the Ratifying Convention with these words:

“When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different.  Liberty, sir, was then the primary object.

      We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty; our glorious forefathers of Great Britain made liberty the foundation of everything. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors; by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire. If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together. Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government.

      Consider our situation, sir; go to the poor man and ask him what he does. He will inform you that he enjoys the fruits of his labor, under his own fig tree, with his wife and children around him, in peace and security. Go to every other member of society; you will find the same tranquil ease and content; you will find no alarms or disturbances. Why, then, tell us of danger, to terrify us into an adoption of this new form of government? And yet who knows the dangers that this new system may produce? They are out of sight of the common people; they cannot foresee latent consequences. I dread the operation of it on the middling and lower classes of people; it is for them I fear the adoption of this system. I fear I tire the patience of the committee, but I beg to be indulged with a few more observations.

 I profess myself an advocate for the liberty of the people. I have said that I thought this a consolidated government; I will now prove it. Will the great rights of the people be secured by this government?  Suppose it should prove oppressive, how can it be altered?  Our Bill of Rights (Virginia’s) declares that ‘a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.’ 

      The voice of tradition, I trust, will inform posterity of our struggles for freedom. If our descendants be worthy the name of Americans they will preserve and hand down to their latest posterity the transactions of the present times……

      Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings…  Give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else!   Guard it with jealous attention. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel…

At this point, the adoption of the Constitution seemed unlikely. Virginia would likely not ratify and neither would New York, and North Carolina clearly would not ratify. Without Virginia, Madison realized, there could be no hope of ever building a coalition to adopt it.  Madison needed Virginia. And so he began working tirelessly for ratification. He teamed up with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay on a series of articles (collectively called “The Federalist Papers”) that were published in newspapers all throughout the States making the case for ratification. And then he changed his stance on a Bill of Rights. He promised to include a bill of rights as the first order of business for the new federal congress. This finally brought George Mason around, which then helped tip Virginia towards ratification.

In the end, as we know, the Constitution was ratified by the States and we became a “more perfect Union” in 1788.  On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making it the Law of the Land.  Virginia and New York ratified it within a month and North Carolina wouldn’t ratify it until over a year later (November 1789).

The Federalist Papers, the debates in the various State Ratifying Conventions, and the Bill of Rights itself continue to be a lasting testament to the limited nature of the US Constitution.

In past years, Tea Parties, Constitutional groups, and other conservative organizations honored Constitution Day by passing out pocket Constitutions.  We have asked people to take the time to read it and become familiar with it.  But perhaps the real message we need to send is how all our Founding documents fit together and why the Constitution still matters.

First, let’s ask what IS a Constitution?  Our Founders gave us that answer.

The Supreme Court, with John Jay (author of some of the Federalist Papers) as the Chief Justice, told us in 1795:

What is a Constitution? It is the form of government, delineated by the mighty hand of the people, in which certain first principles of fundamental laws are established. The Constitution is certain and fixed; it contains the permanent will of the people and is the supreme law of the land…
       It is stable and permanent, not to be worked upon by the temper of the times, nor to rise and fall with the tide of events; notwithstanding the competition of opposing interests, and the violence of contending parties, it remains firm and immovable, as a mountain amidst the raging of the waves.”   [Opinion in Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance, 2 U.S. 304, 308 (1795)]

A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated, or assumed. There are not other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.”   — Thomas PaineRights of Man (1791-1792)

The purpose of a written constitution is to bind up the several branches of government by certain laws, which, when they transgress, their acts shall become nullities; to render unnecessary an appeal to the people, or in other words a rebellion, on every infraction of their rights, on the peril that their acquiescence shall be construed into an intention to surrender those rights.” — Thomas JeffersonNotes on Virginia, 1782.

Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.” — Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to W. Nicholas (1803)

Does it sound like our Constitution was intended to become a LIVING, BREATHING DOCUMENT?

The reality is that the Constitution is not a stand-alone document.  And I think that is where our discussions have failed.  Our founding documents fit together as follows:

(i) The Declaration of Independence.  It proclaims our philosophy of sovereignty, rights, and government.  It establishes the order in our country and puts government in perspective. The individual precedes government. Government must serve the individual by protecting his rights.

(ii) The US Constitution.  It designed a government (checked by the sovereign powers of the States and the People) to embrace the philosophy set forth in the Declaration.

(iii) The Bill of Rights.  It further limits the authority of the federal government (as the preamble to the Bill of Rights states: “In order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added…..”)

We enjoy our God-given rights because our founding documents boldly assert that only We the People have the right to determine our government, since it is only by the voluntary and temporary delegation of our rights to govern ourselves that government exists. We have the right to “alter or abolish” government when it becomes destructive of its ends (which is first and foremost to protect and preserve our rights to Life, Liberty, and Property and the right to defend them). Nowhere in any of our founding documents is government given a life of its own; it has no right or power to seek its own self-interests nor to preserve, insure, or protect its existence. Yet today, government’s interests are placed above those of the People. Government has made sure that it has the exclusive power to define its own powers.

Our creature has become our master.

Too often the Supreme Court uses a skewed perspective. Instead of asking:  ’Are citizens’ rights being violated by this law?’  the Court asks: ‘Is the violation of citizens’ rights justified because of overriding government goals and objectives?’  Too often the answer the court delivers is ‘yes.’  When your rights get in the way of a government objective, you lose.

       Government created to protect your rights should have no goal higher than the protection of those rights. When government’s own goals override your rights, government is acting unconstitutionally. Government often states that these violations of citizens’ rights are necessary ‘for the good of society.’  Society is ill served by laws which violate the rights of the citizens making up that society.

       The Constitution (and the federal government it brought into existence) was created by the states to serve the states. It sets forth the rules for how the government must behave and says, in effect (in the tenth amendment)  ’Any powers that we did not give to you are ours; we’re still the boss.’

This is like exercising parental control. You tell your child how to act, with whom he (or she) may associate and what time he must be home. You assign household chores and responsibilities. In short, you establish rules of proper conduct.

       Suppose that this works fine for a while, but as your child grows, he begins testing the boundaries you had set and breaking the rules, but you do nothing to prevent it. One day you realize that your child is making his own rules, even telling you what to do and what you cannot do. If you object that he is not acting within the rules you set down, he says that he knows better than you what your rules mean. If you try to assert your own rights, you are punished — your child is now bigger and stronger than you are. Your child’s allowance demands are ever increasing. If you don’t do something to correct the situation soon, you’ll be declared incompetent and your child will control all aspects of your life.”

The Tea Party and Constitutional groups take a lot of criticism.  The media, for example, says that the Tea Party has lost steam and has lost relevance.  And sometimes, I admit it, I wonder if it might be true. But when I celebrate Constitution Day and when I continue studying the Constitution and what our Founders intended, and when I have those “light bulb” moments when I begin to understand why certain principles were incorporated into our founding documents, I am reminded of why the Tea Party was founded in the first place and why it is so important.  And I am re-inspired to be a part of it, as well as the Tenth Amendment Center.  It’s because the Tea Party is the party of the Constitution.  We understand its relevance……   We understand why our Founders rejected that Virginia Plan in Philadelphia and why they spent four months building the consensus for a government that would be delegated only limited powers and that would be restrained by a series of checks and balances.

We understand that the problems our country faces today are all a direct consequence of the federal government’s failure to keep itself limited to the express powers delegated to it by the States back in 1791 AND the States’ failure to stand up and remind the government of its limits.

We understand – because we know that America is still defined by the Declaration of Independence – that every time the federal government oversteps its constitutional authority, it is taking sovereign power away from We the People and from the States.  And it has to stop.   We are slowly (maybe not slowly) slipping back into tyranny.

There is a lot at stake in the American experiment. Ours is a nation founded on an ideal and nothing else.  Whether that grand ideal will survive depends on whether the American experiment is successful or not. What is that ideal?  It is the notion that individuals are sovereign and that they are endowed with Natural rights that are “self-evident” and “inalienable” which are an integral part of their very humanity. Since these rights come from our Creator, they cannot be deemed to be granted by government. Hence government is powerless to take them away or violate them. In fact, governments are instituted to serve the People and to protect those rights.

It was from that ideal that our Founders understood the great challenge that would be presented:  How to keep the role of government strictly limited in order that liberty is enlarged and that government is prevented from growing into a new form of tyranny.  They studied history and were well-aware that the nature of any government is to control and gain more power from those it governs. And that in that challenge, we understand why the Constitution is still relevant.  At one time it defined a limited government and it offered numerous protections against those governmental intrusions which they knew would come eventually.  The Constitution still holds the power of limited government and still defines the proper relationship between the People, the States, and the federal government. The key is to put that document, with its original meaning and its original intent, back to work for the American people and for the protection of their inalienable rights.

The Tea Party summoned the spirit of the Revolution to resurrect the Constitution. They went back to the days of peaceful civil disobedience, ownership of their rights and destiny, engagement of their government in their civil liberties, and robust discussion of what it means to be a “free” people.

They took the name “Tea Party” because of its rich historical significance. The Boston Tea Party occurred on December 16, 1773 as a protest against the tax on tea imposed by a government in a far-off land that did not permit its representation in the legislative process (Parliament).  Earlier that year, the British government passed the Tea Act, which authorized the British East India Company to ship tea directly to colonies while the government levied a tax of three pence on each shipment. While the Tea Act actually lowered the price of tea for colonists (so that even with the tax, the colonists were still paying less for tea), many colonists were still angry at being taxed at all.

“Taxation without Representation” was a rallying cry that was particularly significant. The taxes the British tried to collect were modest and the revenue collected was to be spent entirely in the colonies for their benefit and protection. It wasn’t even going to be sent back to the mother country. So why all the fuss and cry of “tyranny”?  It was because the real reason for American Revolution was the lack of political machinery to protect the colonists’ rights.  In short, our founding agitators and revolutionaries weren’t as concerned about the insignificant tax on tea as they were with the underlying violations of their basic human rights.

The American experiment will continue to be successful only as long as we continue to be as vigilante and protective of our rights and as long as we continue to demand that government keep its distance. And so, as we recognize Constitution Day each year on September 17, we should re-commit to our Revolutionary spirit as Americans and read our founding documents in that light. As Jefferson warned, we shouldn’t render our government one of general and unlimited power because we’ve tacitly allowed it the exclusive domain to interpret the Constitution as it sees fit.  We can all know the meaning and intention of the Constitution simply by doing our homework and reading what words of wisdom our Founders left. We don’t need government officials or judges to tell us.  Government wants power.  People want liberty.

As Patrick Henry warned on June 5, 1788 when he addressed the Virginia Ratifying Convention: (paraphrasing) “When we lose the American spirit and our mental powers have decayed, then our liberty will be gone forever.”

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Nullification: Comments to a Harsh Critic

Thomas Jefferson - Change We Can Believe in   by Diane Rufino

I wrote an article in support of Nullification (“Limit Federal Spending through Nullification and State Escrow Accounts”).  A man responded with this comment: “You  propose a remedy and say it’s based on Nullification… In other words, it’s based on crackpottery, along the lines of ‘sovereign citizens.’  SCOTUS has repeatedly rejected nullification and yet loons still pop out of the woodwork claiming to perform legal smoke-and-mirrors using it.”

I wrote the following to him in response:

You seem to understand very little of the most critical of the checks and balances that our Founders created in order that our government remained limited and the liberty of the American people (who had just seceded from the most powerful empire on the planet at the time because that King and Parliament refused to respect the rights of the colonists under the English Bill of Rights of 1689) remain paramount, protected, and unburdened. I’m talking about the federal nature of our government. State versus federal government. Sovereign versus Sovereign. Each acting as jealous guardians of their power in order that neither invade the sphere of power of the other. This was the unique design feature of our American government and the gemstone upon which our liberty was to be secure. I mean, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments certainly are not obscure, And that’s what Nullification is all about. It’s about recognizing this critical doctrine, giving it practical meaning, and about recognizing what Patrick Henry warned about in 1788 in the Virginia Ratifying Convention (Our eye must always be on Liberty….”give us that precious jewel and you can take everything else.”).

If you truly believe that the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, then you are unfit to preserve liberty for your grandchildren.  You are fit for a master and deserve one.

If the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, as Madison and Jefferson warned in 1798-99, it will continue to grow – regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and other limits on government power.  And then we will have a government no better than the one our forefathers fought a bloody revolution for or the ones that we fought a horrendous world war to wipe off the face of the planet.

You may trust 9 men who wear black robes and sit on the bench of the Supreme Court, but that’s all they are…. men (“motivated, as we all are, by the same passion for party, for power, for social change, and for legacy). And their power is the most dangerous because they are in office for life, and not responsible or accountable, as the other functionaries are, to Elective control. 4 members of the Court already believe that their job is to re-interpret the Constitution. How would you like it if an unaccountable group of people took a look at your mortgage agreement and decided that its terms all of a sudden don’t mean the same as when you signed the document? How would you like it if, for the good of the bank and its ability to lend more money to more people, it was going to increase your interest rate by 100% (that is, double it), or even triple it.  A free people deserve transparency. They deserve to know that the document that protects them from the reaches of government is ironclad and means today what it meant yesterday and what it will mean tomorrow. Let me ask you this. You say the Supreme Court addressed the issue of secession and nullification and decided that they are unconstitutional. (I lump them both together since that is what most critics of Nullification seem to do).  First of all, the justice who wrote the decision was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. He was promoted from Sec, of State to Chief Justice. He owed his career to Lincoln and the decision reads as if Lincoln himself wrote it. Second of all, Chase did not go to law school. He learned law pretty much by an apprenticeship. And you’re willing to say his decision should be worthy of being called “the law of the land”?  Third, and finally, the ONLY job of the Supreme Court is to interpret strictly the Constitution (see Marbury v. Madison). As Justice Marshall wrote in that decision: “To take one step beyond the bounds of the Constitution is to violate the oath of allegiance that one takes to that document and that amounts to treason.” (I’ve paraphrased).  Secession and Nullification are NOT addressed in the Constitution at all. Why? Because secession is a fundamental right, as explained in the Declaration of Independence. It is as fundamental to free individuals as is the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness. (Go to paragraph 2; it’s all right there). And Nullification is implied in the very nature of federalism and in the Tenth Amendment. It’s like saying to an individual… “You have the right to life but you can’t defend it.”  Well, we DO have the right to life and we DO have the right to defend it. The implied right is our right to self-defense and self-preservation, which is also in second paragraph of the Declaration.  If the issue is NOT in the Constitution, the Court has nothing to interpret. It is beyond their jurisdiction. The Declaration is not a document for the federal courts to interpret or dismiss.  Thomas Jefferson wrote: “To this I am opposed; because, when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”  This is great advice and one that no one seems to heed.

You may put your trust in SCOTUS, but it is poorly-placed trust, my friend. That Court has taken away your right to alter or abolish your government, even when it becomes destructive of your God-given rights, it has taken your money (ear-marked for “social security”) and said it is NOT your property after all and the government can do what it wants with it, it has forbidden you to express your religion in public institutions, it has said you have no right to be informed or consulted if you child wants an abortion, and it recently announced that the government can use the taxing power to coerce ordinary Americans into doing what it wants them to do,  As for me, I put my trust in Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the very men who remember why we separated from England and who wrote our founding documents (and therefore, understood them best).

Where are Today’s Sons of Liberty?

Sons of Liberty    by Diane Rufino

We talk a lot today about how the Constitution no longer means what it used to and it no longer protects individual freedom and liberty as it used to. We say this because a government of limited and defined powers has steadily and without apology become a government of broad and undefined powers.  When a state should happen to assert its sovereignty and challenge the usurpation of power, the federal government issues a letter threatening to take them to court. The government knows that what the Constitution won’t allow it to do, the courts will.

But the situation is far more serious than what we thought.  Yes, our Constitution is and has been under attack. And yes, the relationship between the individual and the government has been fundamentally altered. But the document that perhaps may be even more significant to us as Americans, the Declaration of Independence, is also under attack. The attack, if we want to be intellectually honest, started with the man the government touts as the greatest American president Abraham Lincoln.

Just as the Constitution was fundamentally transformed as the American people slept and as they became virtual strangers to their own history and heritage, the Declaration has been eroded because of the same reason.

John Adams once said: “A constitution of government once changed from freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”  The American people don’t know how close they are to losing the very gifts they have taken for granted for so long.  We here today will enjoy the last remnants of freedom, but through our actions, our neglect, our spite, and our ignorance we may condemn our children and grandchildren to repurchase it, perhaps with their lives. It may be too late.

What shame we should feel that the people we love most in this world – our children – will not be able to exercise liberty as fully and enjoy property as unconditionally as we did when we were young. The most important property of all – that which stems from our minds, our hearts, and our ambitions – has come increasingly under the control of the federal government, to be regulated for others rather than protected for the individual.

Our greatest shame should be in the reality that posterity will have to buy back a gift we were supposed to preserve for them.

The problem today is that we’ve too long forgotten what makes us uniquely American. It’s not the heritage we bring with us to add to this melting pot we call the United States.  No, it’s the very thing that Martin Luther King referred to in his “I Have a Dream” speech – the promissory note that all Americans are entitled to. “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as well as the guarantee that government would be protect those rights. That promissory note attaches to us at our birth and attaches to everyone who comes to America’s shores looking for freedom and the American Dream. In the United States, individual liberty is the product of natural law and God’s law and not a token gift from a benevolent government. In the United States, government doesn’t grant rights; it protects them. Our laws apply in times of good and bad; they apply to good people and bad people. The Bill of Rights has no exemptions for “really bad people” or even non-citizens. The Bill of Rights, as prefaced in its preamble as “further declaratory and restrictive clauses” on the power delegated to the government in the Constitution – is an important check on government power against any person. That is not a weakness in our legal system; it is the very strength of our legal system. And at the core of what defines America is that grand moral proclamation so eloquently articulated in the Declaration of Independence.

For too many years, Americans have remained silent as precious liberty interests have been taken away from them. It’s been a slow, progressive erosion indeed.  We today are guilty too, if not more than any other generation. We don’t understand that our freedom and liberty is only as secure as the foundation that supports and protects it. And every bit of that foundation is being eroded or has been eroded, including the notion of individual sovereignty (as I’ve pointed out in my previous article – “What It Means to be Sovereign” –  http://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2013/07/30/what-it-means-to-be-sovereign/).

We no longer jealously guard what our Founding Fathers sought to accomplish when they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for and what our forefathers fought and died for. The spirit of the American Revolution is dead. Patrick Henry warned that we should never lose that spirit. Yet, when the Constitution was written and then presented to the Virginia ratifying convention in 1788 – only one year after it was written in Philadelphia – Henry took the floor and listed a series of issues he found with the document, all “tending to re-establish a monarchy” and subjecting citizens to the type of government that they had just dissolved their bonds of allegiance with. He accused the Virginians of already losing the spirit of the Revolution and being too willing to surrender their freedoms. He warned them to guard “that precious jewel,” which is liberty.

Before the Revolution, as we all know, the British Parliament imposed the Stamp Act – a tax on documents. The colonists did everything in their power, mostly through the Sons of Liberty, to frustrate its enforcement. They protested, hung British officials in effigy, organized angry mobs, threw rocks at the homes of officials tasked with collecting the tax, and otherwise intimidated such officials so that most resigned. In short, the Stamp Act could not be enforced. The colonists stood up for their rights (the right NOT to have a government in some far off land legislate for them and tax them without their representation).  As Benjamin Franklin (who was acting as the ambassador to England from Massachusetts at the time) tried to explain to Parliament: “The Stamp Act says we shall have no commerce, make no exchange of property with each other, neither purchase nor grant, nor recover debts; we shall neither marry nor make our wills, unless we pay such and such sums; and thus it is intended to extort our money from us or ruin us by the consequence of refusing to pay it…. They (the colonists) think it extremely hard and unjust that a body of men in which they have no representatives should make a merit to itself of giving and granting what is not its own but theirs, and deprive them of a right they esteem of the utmost value and importance, as it is the security of all their other rights.” A member of Parliament then asked Franklin if the colonists know their rights, and Franklin responded that they know them very well indeed. Franklin went on to warn Parliament that if the Stamp Act was not repealed, the colonies would likely revolt.

Next came the tax on tea. The King and Parliament were mindful of the rising passions of the colonists and their “revolutionary spirit.” In order to impose a tax yet not burden the colonists, Parliament secured a great surplus of tea from the East India Company. Because it was a surplus, it would be sold to the colonies at a lower price. On top of that, there would be a tax imposed of 3 pence per pound. It was no doubt, a minute tax on the tea. With the reduced price plus the tax, colonists would still be paying less for tea than they had paid before. There was no burden. Yet, we know what happened. We know that about 100 members of the Sons of Liberty dressed up as Mohawk Indians and dumped 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor to protest that minute tax. They protested, not because the tax imposed a hardship, but because they were smart enough and liberty-minded enough to recognize the violation of their rights which was at the core of that tax. They would not submit.

Today, we stand idly by even while the government destroys chunks of our liberties. When the 2011-2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed, the Obama administration added a new clause (to the original Authorization of Military Force, AUMF, which Bush requested to hunt down and prosecute the perpetrators of 9/11). Instead of targeting the perpetrators of 9/11, the federal government added a clause to target US citizens, on American soil, who are engaged in hostilities against the United States (undefined terms, of course). Once targeted, they are stripped of their Bill of Rights and can be interrogated, tortured, and held indefinitely without a formal charge or without a trial. The Supreme Court created a special term for these Americans (reviving a term used by FDR in WWII) – “enemy combatants.” The US Constitution already addresses these types of people – they are called “traitors” – and appropriate action is clearly spelled out, so as not to punish without recognizing inherent human rights. But our government needed a way to by-pass constitutional rights and so, we have the NDAA and the ability of the Executive Department to unilaterally attach the label of “enemy-combatant” to an American citizen. But what did the American people do when their rights were taken away? Most said: “Well, the government needs to do what it needs to do to keep us safe.” And where was the outrage when the Supreme Court found that Obamacare was constitutional and the federal government can use the taxing power to compel human behavior in ways that in and of itself are unconstitutional (federal government has NO right to get involved in healthcare; it’s not an enumerated function). Again, too many people were just happy to know the government will be ensuring that they have healthcare coverage than to appreciate the enormity of the violation of fundamental rights that underlies that decision. The debate over whether the government needs to restrain gun rights in order to stem violence in our schools is another issue. Sustainable development policies are another. The “Wall of Separation” and growing hostility of government against religion is another….

The list goes on and on. We just sit back. We don’t protest, we don’t do all we can to frustrate the enforcement of unconstitutional federal laws or policies or even court decisions….  We’ve lost the Revolutionary spirit. We’ve lost the spirit in our hearts and minds that compels us to stand up for our precious liberties.

And the sad thing, we’ve already lost so much.

So the question is this: Why don’t we care?  Why aren’t we doing more?  And where are today’s Sons of Liberty?

NULLIFICATION: The Truths and the Fallacies

Nullify Now - North Carolina (Thomas Jefferson quote)    by Diane Rufino

PART I:  Nullification is the Rightful Remedy to Limit the Federal Government to its Constitutional Objects

Nullification is the theory that says that actions of the federal government that are passed, imposed, or exercised in excess or abuse of the express authority granted in the Constitution are not enforceable. If there is no proper foundation for the action, then that action is null and void and a state has the right, in fact the duty, to refuse to enforce it on its people. Nullification is an essential principle to ensure that the People are insulated from federal tyranny.

Nullification is a legal theory rooted firmly in constitutional history and based on the very limitations articulated in the US Constitution, specifically the Tenth Amendment and Article VI, Section 2 (“Supremacy Clause”). It is based on the federal nature of our government (separation of powers; “dual and competing sovereigns”), on the Supremacy Clause (only those laws made “in pursuance to the Constitution” are supreme and therefore trump state law), and most strongly, on the compact nature of the Constitution (the states formed the Constitution as a compact, agreeing to delegate some of their sovereign power – certain specified powers – to the federal government and reserving all other powers to themselves. Each state, as a party to the compact, has a “right to judge for itself” the extent of the federal government’s powers).  The compact – the social compact – that the states signed in forming the Union in 1789, is similar to contract law. Contracts, as we all know, outline the obligations and benefits to each of the signing parties. The parties are likewise bound by the express language of the contract. We understand this theory and this issue of contract construction as we all have signed contracts. If one party attempts to change the terms or exceed authority under the contract, the other party can either chose to ignore the perverted exercise of contract power or can break the contract altogether.

The fundamental basis for government and law in this country, as in most societies, is the concept of the social compact (or social contract). Social compact is an extension of Natural Law (upon which our Declaration is based) which states that human beings begin as individuals in a state of nature and then organize into societies for mutual benefit. They create a society by establishing a contract whereby they agree to live together in harmony for their mutual benefit, after which they are said to live in a state of society. This contract involves the retaining of certain natural rights, an acceptance of restrictions of certain liberties, the assumption of certain duties, and the pooling of certain powers to be exercised collectively. James Madison confirmed the nature of the US Constitution as a social compact in Federalist No. 39.

The key features of a social compact are: (i) retention of natural rights; (ii) common defense of those rights; and (iii) limitation of government power.

Now, it is true that the compact assures that the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance to it (Article VI) shall be valued as the supreme law of the land, but the converse is equally true. All power not expressly granted is reserved by the States and on those objects, state law is supreme law. This is our system of dual sovereignty. That is the brilliant design feature of our American government system which our Founders believed would ensure the protection of our God-given rights. But unfortunately, our Founders thought the government could be trusted to respect its boundaries, to protect that “precious jewel” that is liberty. They believed that if the branches of government were “advised” that their particular actions were unconstitutional, they would quickly remedy the situation and undo what they had done.

Hah, fat chance that was going to happen. It was only a few years into the operation of the federal government when it attempted, successfully too, to enlarge its powers and redefine the terms of the Constitution. And that’s when our most important Founders – Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – had to remind state leaders why we fought the Revolutionary War in the first place and what their fears had been when considering ratifying the Constitution. That’s when Jeffersonian Nullification was born. It was born out of the notion that the federal government must not be permitted to hold a monopoly on constitutional interpretation, for if it has the unchecked power to judge the extent of its own powers, it will continue to grow and encroach on the rights and liberties of the People and the States.

In his written assurances to the States that the Constitution was delegating only limited powers from them to a federal government, Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 78: “Every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

In order that the States (and the People) be completely assured of what precise objects that their sovereign power was being delegated to the government for, James Madison explained it in the clearest of terms in Federalist No. 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

      The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security. As the former periods will probably bear a small proportion to the latter, the State governments will here enjoy another advantage over the federal government. The more adequate, indeed, the federal powers may be rendered to the national defense, the less frequent will be those scenes of danger which might favor their ascendancy over the governments of the particular States.”    

In Federalist No. 26, Alexander Hamilton wrote: “The State legislatures, who will always be not only vigilant but suspicious and jealous guardians of the rights of the citizens against encroachments from the federal government, will constantly have their attention awake to the conduct of the national rulers, and will be ready enough, if anything improper appears, to sound the alarm to the people, and not only to be the VOICE, but, if necessary, the ARM of their discontent.”

And with this duty to protect its citizens against encroachments from the federal government – to be both their VOICE and their ARM of discontent – we see the seeds that were sown for Nullification and Interposition (the duty to intercede and prevent the usurpation and “arrest the evil”).

Our Founders understood the nature of power….  Power can only be checked by power.

In the Kentucky Resolutions of 1799, which questioned the constitutionality of the Alien & Sedition Acts, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

If those who administer the general government be permitted to transgress the limits fixed by the federal compact (ie, the US Constitution), but a total disregard to the special delegations of powers therein contained, an annihilation of the state governments, and the creation, upon their ruins, of a general consolidated government, will be the inevitable consequence: That the principle and construction, contended by the state legislatures, that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extent of the powers delegated to it, stop nothing short of despotism – since the discretion of those who administer the government, and not the Constitution, would be the measure of their powers. That the several states who formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a Nullification, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under color of that instrument, is the RIGHTFUL REMEDY:  That this commonwealth does, under the most deliberate reconsideration, declare that the said Alien and Sedition laws are, in their opinion, palpable violations of the Constitution…

In the Virginia Resolutions of 1798, also addressing the unconstitutionality of the Acts, James Madison wrote:

That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the Federal Government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states (alone) are the parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact; as no farther valid than they are authorized by the grants (of power) enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by said compact, the states who are parties thereto have the right, and are duty-bound, to INTERPOSE for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them…

       That the General Assembly expresses its deep regret that a spirit has been manifested by the federal government to enlarge its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional charter which defines them; and that indications have appeared of a design to expound certain general phrases (which, having been copied from the very limited grant of powers in the former Articles of Confederation, were the less liable to be misconstrued) so as to destroy the meaning and effect of the particular enumeration which necessarily explains, and limits the general phrases; and so as to consolidate the states, by degrees, into one sovereignty, the obvious tendency and inevitable result of which would be, to transform the present republican system of the United states into an absolute, or at best, a mixed monarchy..

Historians and constitutionalists explain the Jeffersonian theory of Nullification in a way that is slightly misleading. They teach us that constitutional theory allows a state the right (and perhaps even the duty) to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that state has determined to be outside the powers delegated to the government under the Constitution. In other words, they say, a state has the right to determine when a federal law is unconstitutional and therefore decide not to enforce it.

Nullification is actually simpler than that. We live in a country founded on the notion of Individual Sovereignty – that man is supreme and government flows from the sovereign rights and powers of the individual. In our free society, founded on the supremacy of individual rights, constitutions were drafted to list those powers that the people agreed to delegate to their government for the protection of their rights and the orderly management of their communities. The US Constitution was no different. All other powers were retained by the People. Laws are only enforceable in such a constitutional republic when there is express authority granted by the People to do so. Consequently, when the federal government passes a law that exceeds or abuses power delegated in the Constitution, that law is AUTOMATICALLY  NULL and VOID.  It is automatically unenforceable on a free people. Judges are SUPPOSED to declare it void (to put that official check on the legislative branch and force them to repeal the law), but even if they don’t, the law is already null and void.  The federal judiciary was originally intended to be a “check” and was supposed to “advise” only. It was intended to be the weakest of all branches.

So, under the doctrine of Nullification, the states don’t really declare laws to be null and void.  Rather, they recognize that certain laws are null and void. Then they exercise their duty to maintain the integrity of our free society by refusing to enforce any unconstitutional law on their citizens.

PART 2:  Nullification is a Constitutional Principle, Exercised by our Founding Generations

There is no easier way for tyranny to take hold than for a People to remain silent when they know, or should know, what their rights are. There is no easier way for a government to usurp the natural rights of a People to govern themselves than to stand by and let that government legislate when it has no authority to do so.

The early colonists certainly didn’t miss an opportunity to stand up for their rights. In fact, the Sons of Liberty formed (much like today’s Tea Party and Tenth Amendment Center) to point out where Britain was violating their rights and to help organize opposition and protest. Samuel Adams, the leader of the Sons of Liberty in Boston, wrote the following in 1769 with these words:

DEARLY BELOVED,

REVOLVING time hath brought about another anniversary of the repeal of the odious Stamp Act,—an act framed to divest us of our liberties and to bring us to slavery, poverty, and misery. The resolute stand made by the Sons of Liberty against the detestable policy had more effect in bringing on the repeal than any conviction in the Parliament of Great Britain of the injustice and iniquity of the act . It was repealed from principles of convenience to Old England, and accompanied with a declaration of their right to tax us; and since, the same Parliament have passed acts which, if obeyed in the Colonies, will be equally fatal. Although the people of Great Britain be only fellow-subjects, they have of late assumed a power to compel us to buy at their market such things as we want of European produce and manufacture; and, at the same time, have taxed many of the articles for the express purpose of a revenue; and, for the collection of the duties, have sent fleets, armies, commissioners, guard acostas, judges of admiralty, and a host of petty officers, whose insolence and rapacity are become intolerable. Our cities are garrisoned; the peace and order which heretofore dignified our streets are exchanged for the horrid blasphemies and outrages of soldiers; our trade is obstructed ; our vessels and cargoes, the effects of industry, violently seized; and, in a word, every species of injustice that a wicked and debauched Ministry could invent is now practiced against the most sober, industrious, and loyal people that ever lived in society. The joint supplications of all the Colonies have been rejected; and letters and mandates, in terms of the highest affront and indignity, have been transmitted from little and insignificant servants of the Crown to his Majesty’s grand and august sovereignties in America.

These things being so, it becomes us, my brethren, to walk worthy of our vocation, to use every lawful mean to frustrate the wicked designs of our enemies at home and abroad, and to unite against the evil and pernicious machinations of those who would destroy us.”

Son of Liberty

From a small, secret group of agitators in Boston and in Connecticut, the Sons of Liberty grew to the point that there was a group in every one of the thirteen colonies. They organized demonstrations, circulated petitions, published newspaper articles, distributed flyers and handbills, and in general did all they could to bring the message of liberty to the colonists. But it was their simple acts of civil disobedience – like protesting a tax on tea by dumping 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor, protesting the tax on documents (Stamp Act) by forcing officials to the Crown to resign or to refrain from unloading ships from Britain, or forming angry mobs in response to the Quartering Act – which prevented the enforcement of some of the acts of Parliament that the colonists found intolerable. It was when the King responded with further punitive and oppressive measures – which Jefferson would refer to as “abuses and usurpations” – it was clear the colonies would have to declare their independence in order to remain free.

By frustrating the enforcement of the Stamp Act and the other intolerable, the Sons of Liberty exercised their early right of nullification. They recognized that the British Parliament had no right to legislate for them when they were not provided representation, as guaranteed in their English Bill of Rights of 1689. Any piece of legislation that is passed without proper authority is automatically null and void and cannot be rightfully enforced. This is the basis of the doctrine of Nullification. The Sons of Liberty stood up for this principle and energized the colonists to stand up for their rights and especially their right NOT TO SUBMIT to laws that were not properly passed in accordance with their government charters.

Nullification, as you can see, is an important check and balance on the power of the federal government, which seeks, at every turn, to enlarge and concentrate its powers and to pervert the meaning and intent of the Constitution. There has been no greater enemy than the federal courts which now openly, flagrantly, and arrogantly declare that the Constitution is a “living, breathing document” that is to be re-interpreted willy nilly and as they, the judges, believe will best reflect and serve the social norms of the day.

In fact, Nullification is probably the most important check and balance of them all. Dual and co-equal sovereigns, each jealously guarding their respective sphere of power, will maintain that delicate balance of power that our Founding Fathers designed and which the States themselves agreed to. It’s the same way that two skilled attorneys, adversarial in nature (the prosecution and the defense) will aggressively provide that justice is served. And it’s the same way that two political parties, one to the left in its ideology and the other to the right, will ultimately assure that policy remains somewhat in the middle so that our society is tolerable for everyone.

In Federalist No. 33, Alexander Hamilton asked and answered an important question: “If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.”  Hamilton doesn’t limit the measures that people can use to redress the situation when government oversteps the bounds of its authority.  According to Hamilton, the remedy should be in proportion to the violation. If we are to take Hamilton at his word for the government’s taxing power, we should, with the same enthusiasm, take him at his word for the ability to push the government back within the bound of the Constitution.

Referring to the title of this article, the truth is that Nullification is a valid constitutional doctrine reserved “in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by said compact (US Constitution).”  James Madison, Virginia Resolutions of 1798. The states, who wrote, debated, amended (Bill of Rights), and ratified the Constitution to create the federal government are the rightful parties who have the authority, and are indeed “duty-bound, to interpose (intercede) for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them.”  Virginia Resolutions of 1798.  The truth is that Nullification, while not under that express term, was an important principle and an important tool to prevent abusive and unconstitutional laws from being enforced on the colonists/colonies and then on the citizens of the various “united” States and the states themselves when the US Constitution was adopted. The fallacy is that the Constitution itself, through the Supremacy Clause, renders Nullification an illegitimate remedy. Thefallacy is that the Supreme Court, as the ultimate authority on the intent and meaning of the Constitution, has rejected the doctrine. The fallacy is that Nullification was the favored state remedy of slavery proponents and white supremists. And the fallacy is that the Civil War distinguished rightful remedies to limit government power.

Part 3:  Opponents of Nullification Attempt to Discredit our Founding Principles With Various False Criticisms

            A.  The Misrepresentation of the Supremacy Clause and Proper Constitutional Bounds 

Critics are quick to say that the theory of nullification has never been legally upheld and in fact, the Supreme Court expressly rejected it – in Ableman v. Booth, 1959, and Cooper v. Aaron, 1958. They say that the courts have spoken on the subject and have held that under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, federal law is superior to state law, and that under Article III of the Constitution, the federal judiciary has the final power to interpret the Constitution. Therefore, the critics conclude, that the power to make final decisions about the constitutionality of federal laws lies with the federal courts, not the states, and the states do not have the power to nullify federal laws but rather, are duty-bound to obey them.

The fatal flaw in their arguments, however, is that they believe that the judiciary, a branch of the same federal government that tends to overstep their constitutional bounds, is somehow above the law and not subject to the remedy of Nullification as the other branches are. As will be discussed later, the federal judiciary was the first branch to enlarge its powers, in the case of Marbury v. Madison.

Another fatal flaw in their argument is that somehow, the Supremacy Clause is a rubber stamp that labels every federal law, every federal court decision, and every federal action “supreme.” They, and especially the justices of the Supreme Court, refer to the Supremacy Clause as if it were the Midas Touch – a magical power that turns EVERYTHING the federal government does, including by all three branches, to gold. Nothing is farther than the truth. The Supremacy Clause states simply: “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; …shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby…”  The is no debate that the Constitution, as originally drafted and defended, and as intended and ratified, designed a government of limited powers. Therefore it follows that only laws passed to legislate for the limited functions listed in the Constitution are supreme. Regarding objects and designs not expressly listed in the Constitution, the Ninth and Tenth Amendment remind us that they are reserved to the People or the States, respectively, and the federal government can claim no such supremacy. The Supremacy Clause states a preemptive doctrine that asserts sovereignty just as equally as the Ninth and Tenth Amendments assert sovereignty.

Hamilton continued in Federalist No. 33: “It is said that the laws of the Union are to be the supreme law of the land. But what inference can be drawn from this, or what would they amount to, if they were not to be supreme? It is evident they would amount to nothing. A law, by the very meaning of the term, includes supremacy. It is a rule which those to whom it is prescribed are bound to observe. This results from every political association. If individuals enter into a state of society, the laws of that society must be the supreme regulator of their conduct. If a number of political societies enter into a larger political society, the laws which the latter may enact, pursuant to the powers entrusted to it by its constitution, must necessarily be supreme over those societies, and the individuals of whom they are composed. But it will not follow from this doctrine that acts of the large society which are not pursuant to its constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary authorities of the smaller societies, will become the supreme law of the land. These will be merely acts of usurpation, and will deserve to be treated as such. Hence we perceive that the clause which declares the supremacy of the laws of the Union, like the one we have just before considered, only declares a truth, which flows immediately and necessarily from the institution of a federal government. It will not, I presume, have escaped observation, that it expressly confines this supremacy to laws made pursuant to the Constitution; which I mention merely as an instance of caution in the convention; since that limitation would have been to be understood, though it had not been expressed.

Critics also like to discredit Nullification by associating it with the more controversial episodes in our history.  A popular claim is that Nullification was used to perpetuate slavery because it was embraced by Southern leaders who did not want blacks to take their place as free and equal men in their societies. They especially link Nullification to South Carolina’s colorful Senator John C. Calhoun who was not only a vocal proponent of the doctrine and used it to justify his state’s refusal to recognize the Tariff of Abominations in 1832, but he was a strong supporter of slavery and a white supremist. They like to say that Nullification led to the tariff crisis (or Nullification Crisis of 1832) pitting the South against the North and eventually precipitating the Civil War. They allege that the Civil War settled the question of Nullification.

There are so many flaws in these arguments.

Between 1798 and the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, several states threatened or attempted nullification of various federal laws, including the Tariff of 1828, the Tariff of 1832, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and even the 1854 ruling by the Wisconsin Supreme Court which held that Wisconsin didn’t have to comply with the Fugitive Slave Act. None of these efforts were legally upheld, although all were successful in providing the relief they sought.

In the late 1820′s, the nation suffered an economic downturn, with South Carolina being hit especially hard. The government enacted high protective tariffs (high tariffs on imports, particularly finished goods). The North, industrial as it was, manufactured finished goods but needed raw materials (such as cotton, sugar, etc) while the South, an agrarian society, purchased almost all finished products from imports. It also made most of its money from its export of cotton, tobacco, and sugar. The tariff, as the South viewed it, harmed the South while at the same time providing an enormous benefit to the North. With the higher prices on imported finished goods, it had the effect of “protecting” the products of the North. In other words, the finished goods of the North would be preferred over imports because of the price. The South would be forced to buy products from the North, thus enriching the North. On the other hand, because of the United States’ high protective tariffs, other countries retaliated by imposing high tariffs on American imports, which greatly harmed the South. To compete, the South had to lower her prices. Like a vulture, the Northern industries noticed that Southern cotton, sugar, etc weren’t selling and took advantage of the fact that they could buy her goods at reduced prices. South Carolina was opposed most vehemently to the protective tariffs. South Carolina believed that a “common government” should serve both regions equally and in this case, it was harming the South in order to enrich the North. South Carolina alleged that the tariffs were extremely detrimental to her well-being.

In the summer of 1828, South Carolina state representative Robert Barnwell Rhett appealed to the governor and to his constituents to resist the majority in Congress regarding the high tariff (referred to as the “Tariff of Abominations”). Rhett emphasized the danger of doing nothing:

But if you are doubtful of yourselves – if you are not prepared to follow up your principles wherever they may lead, to their very last consequence – if you love life better than honor,…. prefer ease to perilous liberty and glory, then awake not!  Stir not!  Impotent resistance will add vengeance to your ruin. Live in smiling peace with your insatiable Oppressors, and die with the noble consolation that your submissive patience will survive triumphant your beggary and despair.”

Also in 1828, John Calhoun published his “Exposition and Protest,” although anonymously, in which he discussed Nullification. (He was Andrew Jackson’s Vice President at the time and Jackson was strongly opposed to Nullification):

If it be conceded, as it must be by everyone who is the least conversant with our institutions, that the sovereign powers delegated are divided between the General and State Governments, and that the latter hold their portion by the same tenure as the former, it would seem impossible to deny to the States the right of deciding on the infractions of their powers, and the proper remedy to be applied for their correction. The right of judging, in such cases, is an essential attribute of sovereignty, of which the States cannot be divested without losing their sovereignty itself, and being reduced to a subordinate corporate condition. In fact, to divide power, and to give to one of the parties the exclusive right of judging of the portion allotted to each, is, in reality, not to divide it at all; and to reserve such exclusive right to the General Government (it matters not by what department to be exercised), is to convert it, in fact, into a great consolidated government, with unlimited powers, and to divest the States, in reality, of all their rights. It is impossible to understand the force of terms, and to deny so plain a conclusion.”

In 1832, inspired by Calhoun’s defense of Nullification as the rightful remedy to not suffer unconstitutional federal legislation (he strongly supported and promoted the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, respectively), South Carolina decided to use the doctrine to escape the oppression of the tariff.  Its position was that Nullification could be used by a state to resist a federal law that was not specifically authorized by the U.S. Constitution.  South Carolina then assembled a democratically-elected convention and issued an Ordinance of Nullification. This ordinance declared that the federal Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional and therefore null and void within the sovereign boundaries of South Carolina.

The Ordinance of Nullification read:

Whereas the Congress of the United States by various acts, purporting to be acts laying duties and imposts on foreign imports, but in reality intended for the protection of domestic manufactures and the giving of bounties to classes and individuals engaged in particular employments, at the expense and to the injury and oppression of other classes and individuals, and by wholly exempting from taxation certain foreign commodities, such as are not produced or manufactured in the United States, to afford a pretext for imposing higher and excessive duties on articles similar to those intended to be protected, bath exceeded its just powers under the constitution, which confers on it no authority to afford such protection, and bath violated the true meaning and intent of the constitution, which provides for equality in imposing the burdens of taxation upon the several States and portions of the confederacy: And whereas the said Congress, exceeding its just power to impose taxes and collect revenue for the purpose of effecting and accomplishing the specific objects and purposes which the constitution of the United States authorizes it to effect and accomplish, hath raised and collected unnecessary revenue for objects unauthorized by the constitution.

      We, therefore, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain and it is hereby declared and ordained, that the several acts and parts of acts of the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws for the imposing of duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities, and now having actual operation and effect within the United States, and, more especially, an act entitled “An act in alteration of the several acts imposing duties on imports,” approved on the nineteenth day of May, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight and also an act entitled “An act to alter and amend the several acts imposing duties on imports,” approved on the fourteenth day of July, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two, are unauthorized by the constitution of the United States, and violate the true meaning and intent thereof and are null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or citizens; and all promises, contracts, and obligations, made or entered into, or to be made or entered into, with purpose to secure the duties imposed by said acts, and all judicial proceedings which shall be hereafter had in affirmance thereof, are and shall be held utterly null and void.”

The Ordinance of Nullification was not received well and soon escalated to what came to be referred to as the Nullification of 1832. Andrew Jackson was inflamed and was intent on arresting Calhoun and having him hang in Washington DC. He also had Congress pass the Force Bill which authorized the use of military force against any state that resisted the tariff acts. It was feared that South Carolina would secede if pushed, and so, the members of the US Senate and then House came together to work out a solution. In 1833, Senator Henry Clay and Senator Calhoun proposed a compromise bill to resolve the Crisis. The Tariff of 1833 (also known as the Compromise Tariff of 1833), would gradually reduce the tariff rates over a 10-year period to the levels set in the Tariff of 1816 – an average of 20% lower.  The compromise bill was accepted by South Carolina and passed the US Congress and thus effectively ended the Nullification Crisis.  South Carolina got the relief it sought.

As a side note, Abraham Lincoln, who ran on the Republican Platform for president in the election of 1860, was originally a Whig and was still a Whig at heart. He was a true follower of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.  As such, he was a strong supporter of protective tariffs and promised to raise the tariff to the 1828 rate. Is it any wonder why tensions in the South were elevated with the election of Lincoln?

            B.  The Misrepresentation of Nullification with respect to Slavery

One of the biggest criticisms is that that Nullification was asserted for the purpose of perpetuating slavery. The record, however, is absolutely clear on this issue. Frustration of the federal Fugitive Slave Law was accomplished by nullification efforts all over the North and because of the success of those efforts, slaves were encouraged to seek their freedom and the movement to end slavery was able to gain momentum.

Although the concepts of States’ Rights and Nullification are historically associated with the South, they were employed by northern states to resist the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. While the southern states defied the federal government by refusing to accept the abominable tariffs, the northern states defied the government by refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, which they believed was an unconstitutional commandeering of the state and at its core, a repugnant law that offended their conscience. Under this law, stringent measures were imposed to catch runaway slaves. These included:

  • Penalizing federal officials that did not enforce the law
  • Rewarding federal officials that did enforce law
  • Requiring free citizens to help capture runaway slaves
  • Fining or imprisoning citizens helping runaways escape
  • Prohibiting runaways from testifying on their own behalf in court
  • Denying jury trials to runaways

Special federal commissions, not courts, worked with U.S. marshals to handle runaway cases. Commissioners and marshals who failed to hold captured runaways could be sued, thus compelling them to enforce the law. They received $10 for every runaway delivered to a claimant, but only $5 for cases in which the runaway was freed. This provided a financial incentive to send even free black men and women into slavery. The law not only jeopardized the liberty of every black citizen, but it also infringed on the freedom of white citizens by forcing them to hunt for runaways against their will.

State and local governments openly defied the law:

1).  The legislatures of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Michigan, and Wisconsin passed “personal liberty laws” making it nearly impossible to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act in those states.

2).  The Wisconsin Supreme Court declared that the Tenth Amendment protected states from repugnant federal laws like the Fugitive Slave Act, specifically citing the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 as the basis for its opinion.

3).  The Chicago City Council called northern congressmen who supported the act “traitors” like “Benedict Arnold and Judas Iscariot.”

4).  When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not free federal prisoners convicted of helping runaways, the Wisconsin legislature called “this assumption of jurisdiction by the federal judiciary… an act of undelegated power, void, and of no force…”  (The Wisconsin Supreme Court nullified the Supreme Court’s decision.  See discussion below)

In addition to local governments, the people themselves took matters into their own hands:

1).  In Syracuse, New York, in 1851 a jury effectively nullified the law by acquitting all but one of 26 people who had been arrested for freeing William “Jerry” Henry. Among those 26 persons arrested and tried was a US Senator and the former Governor of NY.  Jerry ultimately escaped to Canada.

2).  When Joshua Glover was captured by U.S. marshals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the sheriff supported local opinion by freeing Glover and jailing the marshals; Glover also escaped to Canada.

3).  In Pennsylvania, a mob of free blacks killed a slaveholder attempting to capture a runaway.

4).  Military force was needed to disperse a mass meeting after a black man was apprehended in Detroit.

5).  Throughout Ohio, town meetings branded any northern official who helped enforce the law “an enemy of the human race.”

6).  Other cities and states refused to help enforce the law simply because it was too expensive. Returning one runaway to the South cost the city of Boston $5,000. Boston officials never enforced the law again. All of these acts of defiance and nullification were ironically adopted from principles first introduced and later invoked by southerners.

When Wisconsin residents refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law and return escaped slave, Glover, an ensuing series of arrests would give the state Supreme Court the opportunity to use Nullification to proclaim the law’s unconstitutionality. The case would be known as In re Booth.

What has become known as the Booth case is actually a series of decisions from the Wisconsin Supreme Court beginning in 1854 and one from the U.S. Supreme Court,Ableman v. Booth, 62 U.S. 514 (1859), leading to a final published decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Ableman v. Booth, 11 Wis. 501 (1859). These decisions reflect Wisconsin’s attempted nullification of the federal fugitive slave law, the expansion of the state’s rights movement and Wisconsin’s defiance of federal judicial authority. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in Booth unanimously declared the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision but the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to file the U.S. Court’s mandate upholding the fugitive slave law. That mandate has never been filed.

When the U.S. Constitution was drafted, slavery existed in this country. Article IV, Section 2 provided that:  ”No person held to service or labor in one state under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

Based on this provision, Congress in 1793 passed a law that gave slave owners the power to have a runaway slave arrested in any state and returned.  The law remained intact until 1850, by which time the moral sentiment of the North against slavery had become aroused; the Liberty Party had been organized, the underground railroad had flourished and many northern men and women refused to act as slave catchers or assist in perpetuating slavery. Because of the increasing difficulty the slave holders faced in reclaiming runaway slaves, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The law placed the mechanism for capturing runaway slaves in the hands of federal officers. It provided that these cases would be heard by a federal judge or court commissioner and allowed the slave owner to prove the debt owed by the slave but precluded testimony from the fugitive entirely. The new law also increased the penalties for resistance and for concealment of fugitives.

Although it was intended as a compromise, the new law actually fueled the flames of anti-slavery sentiment and from 1854 to 1861, Wisconsin politics was dominated by the question of whether the state had to defer to the federal government’s efforts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.

In the spring of 1852, a slave named Joshua Glover escaped from a Missouri plantation and made his way to Racine, where he found work at a sawmill. Two years later, his owner tracked him down and had him apprehended by federal marshals under the Fugitive Slave Act. Glover was held in the Milwaukee County Jail pending a hearing.  When Sherman M. Booth, editor of the Milwaukee abolitionist newspaper, The Free Democrat, heard of the capture, he is said to have mounted his horse and galloped through the streets of Milwaukee shouting: “Freemen! To the rescue! Slave catchers are in our midst! Be at the courthouse at 2:00!” Booth’s lawyers then persuaded a Milwaukee County Court judge to issue a writ of habeas corpus (a judicial order freeing Booth) directing the U.S. marshal to bring Glover before the county judge and justify his detention

Before the hearing could take place, Booth appointed a committee to prevent the “kidnapping” of Glover by the federal authorities. After Booth made a fiery speech, a mob led by one of the other committeemen, John Ryecraft, battered down the jail doors, freed Glover and spirited him away to Canada.  Federal authorities charged Booth with assisting Glover’s escape. Booth was released on bail but two months later, at his own request, he was delivered to the U.S. Marshal. Booth’s surrender was calculated to bring a test case in the state courts challenging the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law. On the day after the surrender, Booth’s attorney, Byron Paine (later a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court), successfully applied to Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Abram D. Smith for a writ of habeas corpus. At that hearing, Smith asked the parties to address the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law. Paine, citing Thomas Jefferson’s writings, said states have the right to impose their authority when their sovereign rights are violated by the federal government. Paine argued that Congress had no authority to make laws based on the fugitive slave clause of the Constitution and that the Act of 1850 was unconstitutional because it denied a trial by jury and vested judicial powers in court commissioners. On June 7, 1854, Smith ordered that Booth be released, finding the warrant of commitment defective and the fugitive slave law unconstitutional.

When the US Attorney General learned of the decision, he appealed it to the US Supreme Court. The case –  Ableman v. Booth – was heard in 1859, just one year before slavery would a major issue of the presidential election.  In that case, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Law and further held that Wisconsin did not have the power to nullify the Fugitive Slave Act.  In a decision written by Justice Roger Taney (who also wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision): “No power is more clearly conferred by the Constitution and laws of the United States than the power of this court to decide, ultimately and finally, all cases arising under such Constitution and laws.” [pg. 62]

The justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court justices were then instructed to file the U.S. Supreme Court’s mandates reversing the judgments and dismissals in the Booth case. Although there had been some changes to the bench in the years since the case was heard, the majority opinion was that the federal court had no power to review the judgments of the state Supreme Court and Wisconsin was well within its right to nullify the Fugitive Slave Law, and so the justices voted not to file the mandates in the Booth cases. The Wisconsin Supreme Court would write: “The Supreme Court said that the States cannot, therefore, be compelled to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. We regard the action of the Supreme Court of the US, in assuming jurisdiction in the case before mentioned, as an arbitrary act of power, unauthorized by the Constitution. This assumption of jurisdiction by the federal judiciary is an act of undelegated power, and therefore without authority, void, and of no force.”

[Booth was subsequently arrested by federal agents and placed in a state penitentiary. Since Wisconsin did not assert its duty to interpose and prevent federal agents from such conduct, Booth remained in custody. But only a few short months later, on the eve of Lincoln’s inauguration, President Buchanan would pardon him].

Wisconsin successfully nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in its state.  It did not back down. It did not reverse the judgment on Booth, as the US Supreme Court instructed. Although the Civil War would start in less than two years and the affections that bound North and South together would be strained, the state of Wisconsin maintained its position on the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Law and held to its conviction that it was unenforceable in its borders.

Contrary to the critics’ position that Nullification was used to promote and support slavery, the only real time we saw it used with regard to slavery is in an effort to discourage enforcement of laws to return slaves that have successfully escaped and to therefore encourage their escape to the north.

The critics of Nullification go even further and try to discredit Nullification by blaming it, for example, for Arkansas’ refusal to integrate their schools following the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1953 which demanded that school segregation be ended immediately.  Martin Luther King Jr. himself vilified Nullification in his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington DC in 1963.  He said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.  I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

To condemn Nullification for one bad application would require that we also condemn the Supreme Court because of its Dred Scott decision.  Besides, there are many constitutional scholars who don’t wonder if the Brown decision was decided using an interpretation that itself was unconstitutional. While it should be universally agreed that purposeful segregation of the races based on the assumption that blacks are an inferior race had to end. It was a shameful policy that has rocked our moral conscience as a nation. But, to use the very same criteria (race), especially as in the bussing cases, to remedy for the past sins of segregation has been challenged as an unconstitutional exercise of judicial power. A violation of the 14th Amendment is a violation of the 14th Amendment, whether it’s used for bad or for good.

C.  Misrepresentation because of Political Correctness  

There is nothing more harmful to liberty and nothing more harmful in a free society than to shut down ideas and avenues of redress under the pretext that it “is offensive” to certain groups of people. Certainly, one of the oldest tricks in the book is the one whereby supporters of a centralized energetic government demonize the message that empowers its people. And that’s what has happened with Nullification and the Civil Rights Movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. used the words Nullification and Interposition for effect and to elicit passions that evoke memories of slavery and efforts by the South to deny them Civil Rights. Had he been honest, he would have also praised Nullification for providing the North with the reason not to enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws and condemning runaway slaves to a life of continued forced servitude as nothing more than personal property.

It was Arkansas’ actions in response to the Brown v. Board of Education decision that led to the Cooper v. Aaron case and appeared to give Nullification opponents ammunition. In the wake of the Brown case, the school district of Little Rock, Arkansas formulated a plan to desegregate its schools but most other school districts in the state opposed the Supreme Court’s rulings and attempted to find ways to perpetuate segregation. As a result, the Arkansas state legislature amended the state constitution to oppose desegregation and then passed a law relieving children from mandatory attendance at integrated schools. The school board of Little Rock, however, ignored then mandate and continued on with the desegregation program. In fact, it was this decision that led to the incident known as the “Little Rock Nine” incident (or the “Little Rock School Crisis of 1957″).  In 1957, the NAACP enrolled nine black children at Little Rock Central High. Arkansas’ Governor Orval Faubus energetically opposed the desegregation plan and even deployed the Arkansas National Guard to block the entrance to the school. On September 9, the Little Rock School District issued a statement condemning the governor’s deployment of soldiers to the school, and on September 24, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army to Little Rock and federalized the entire 10,000-member Arkansas National Guard, taking it out of the hands of Faubus. The crisis was over and the nine students were finally permitted to attend Little Rock Central.

On February 20, 1958, five months after the integration crisis, members of the Arkansas state school board (along with the Superintendent of Schools) filed suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, urging suspension of Little Rock’s plan of desegregation. They alleged that public hostility to desegregation and that the opposition of Governor Faubus and the state legislature created an intolerable and chaotic situation. The relief the plaintiffs requested was for the black children to be returned to segregated schools and for the implementation of the desegregation plan to be postponed for two and a half years. The case would make its way to the Supreme Court later that same year.

In that case, Cooper v. Aaron, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision in Cooper  v. Aaron, noted that although the school board had apparently acted in good faith, it was nonetheless constitutionally impermissible under the Equal Protection Clause to maintain law and order by depriving the black students their equal rights under the law.  It began its analysis by noting that Justice John Marshall, in 1803 in the landmark case of  Marbury v. Madison, declared that “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” The Marbury decision established the basic principle that the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution.  The Cooper opinion then went on to state: “The interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment enunciated by this Court in the Brown case is the supreme law of the land under Article VI of the Constitution (the Supremacy Clause) which therefore makes it of binding effect on the States.”  Furthermore, the Court reasoned, since every state official takes an oath to support the US Constitution, they are bound to solemnly support the Constitution and such rulings. The Court then rejected the notion that a state has no duty to obey a federal court order that it believes to be unconstitutional.  In other words, the Court rejected nullification and interposition. “In short, the constitutional rights of children not to be discriminated against in school admission on grounds of race or color declared by this Court in the Brown case can neither be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executive or judicial officers nor nullified indirectly by them through evasive schemes for segregation whether attempted ingeniously or ingenuously.”

It is worth noting that the Framers and Founding Fathers never assigned the Supreme Court the responsibility that Justice Marshall assumed for the Court in Marbury v. Madison – that it shall be the sole province of the Supreme Court to declare what the Constitution says and means. It is a power that the Court, a branch of the federal government, assigned and delegated to itself. And that decision has never been challenged, even though the Federalist Papers speak differently of the function of the federal judiciary.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has no more the right to declare Nullification an improper check and balance on the power of the federal government as it does on the Separation of Powers doctrine or the President’s Veto power.

Some legal scholars have publicly criticized the Court’s rationale in Cooper. Perhaps the most famous criticism comes from former US Attorney General (under Ronald Reagan) and brilliant constitutional attorney, Edwin Meese III, in his law review article entitled The Law of the Constitution. In that article, Meese accused the Supreme Court of taking too much power for itself by setting itself up as the sole institution responsible for the interpretation of the Constitution. He wrote that while judicial interpretation of the Constitution binds the parties of the case, it should not establish a supreme law of the land that must be accepted by all persons.

             D.  Misrepresentation by an Incorrect Assessment of the Civil War  

Perhaps one of the most popular arguments given by the opponents of Nullification is that the Civil War settled the issue.

Of course, this is a preposterous assertion. Core constitutional principles weren’t destroyed, even though President Lincoln did everything in his power to destroy the Constitution itself. Just because a constitutional government was suspended and the proper role of the federal government was temporarily derailed does not mean our system was abandoned. The US Constitution was never rejected and supplanted by another. Our supreme law was merely modified by a few amendments and the southern states were punished (severely) for their audacity in seceding.

Opponents allege that it was the Southern States and their seditious spirit (ie, embracing Nullification) that led to the Civil War. It seems that it never occurred to them to read the Inaugural Address of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, where he talked about their pure allegiance to the spirit of the American Revolution and the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

As Thomas Jefferson so aptly explained, the power of Nullification is that it accomplishes peacefully what rebellion would accomplish forcibly..  and that is a rejection of a government that refuses to abide by its constitutional bounds.  Nullification is a gentle nudge, by the States, to put the federal government on notice that it has violated the terms and spirit of the Constitution, and therefore putting the ball back in its court so it can take the proper steps and remedy the situation. That’s why Jefferson, in fact, one of the reasons he termed it the “Rigthful Remedy.”  Nullification doesn’t lead to Secession, it prevents it.  Only when the federal government refuses to abide by the boundaries the people have entrusted it do the People have to consider more extreme measures.

In his book Is Davis a Traitor, Albert Taylor Bledsoe writes: “The subjugation of the Southern States and their acceptance of the terms dictated (forced upon them) by the North in the War of Coercion may be considered as having shifted the Federal Government from the basis of compact to that of conquest, and thereby extinguished every claim to the right of secession for the future.”

Whether one believes we have been conquered by our own government determines what they believe about Nullification and Secession. Whether one believes Bledsoe’s assessment or not speaks volumes about whether that person cherishes liberty.

Our Declaration of Independence proclaims that in America, individual liberty is grounded firmly in Natural Law and God’s law. To secure that foundation, our country adopted the government philosophy of John Locke which says that people have rights preexisting government, government exists to protect those rights, and government should not stand in the way of its own dissolution should it violate those rights. This is the express message of the Declaration.

It’s obvious that in the wake of the Civil War, the nature of government has fundamentally changed and that the relationship between itself and the people has been transformed. But while there are those who accept the notion that with the War of Coercion the government took a stand against the rights of the individual (and won) and who believe we must submit to this new system, the question really boils down to this….  Did the government have the right to coerce the States and the People to fight a war for ITS own preservation and domination?  Did it have the right to subjugate the Southern States against their will?  NO, it did not. Nowhere did the government have the right to act as it did and therefore the consequences are NULL and VOID.

Those who support Nullification still believe in the fundamental truth that people have rights that preexist government and that government exists primarily to protect our rights from those that do not respect them and NOT to control us and coerce us into serving its goals.

As Jefferson Davis indeed predicted, the northern victors would succeed in teaching history which vindicates their efforts and violations. And so, through our public schools, the great majority of books, government opinion, and even the significance of the Lincoln Memorial on the national mall, we are led to believe that Abraham Lincoln was our most important and beloved president. The reality, according to historian Larry Tagg in his book  The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: America’s Most Reviled President, is that he was the most hated of all American presidents during his lifetime. He was so thoroughly hated in the North (especially in New York) that the New York Times editorialized a wish that he would be assassinated. Thomas DiLorenzo, who has done extensive research on Lincoln, said the hatred was perfectly understandable.  Lincoln committed so many constitutional violations that even Congress’ collective head was spinning. The Congressional record is full of discussion as to the extent of his violations. He illegally suspended Habeas Corpus, imprisoned tens of thousands of Northern political critics without due process, and shut down over 300 opposition newspapers. If they still tried to use the mail to distribute news, he called out the army, seized their property, and prevented their access to the US mail. He enforced military conscription with the murder of hundreds of New York City draft protesters in 1863 and with the mass execution of deserters from his army. He deported a congressional critic (Democratic Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio); confiscated firearms; and issued an arrest warrant for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Roger Taney) when he issued an opinion that only Congress could legally suspend Habeas Corpus. He blocked southern ports without authorization of Congress (which is far and above the type of action necessary to quash a rebellion; it’s an act of war). Most of all, he waged an unnecessary war, not authorized by Congress, that resulted in the death of 1 in every 4 young men (3.4% of the population at the time; 3.4% of today’s population would be approximately 8.5 million Americans). The real legacy of the Civil War, is Lincoln’s “false virtue” – that he felt justified in trampling all over the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the sovereign rights of the states in order to do what he personally believed was necessary.  To say Lincoln saved the Union by waging the Civil War is like saying a man saved his marriage by beating his wife into submission.

For those who believe that the Civil War settled the question of whether Nullification is a proper remedy, then I ask this: How is it that a constitutional remedy can be destroyed by unconstitutional conduct by the President of the United States and the US Congress?  How the essential principles of self-preservation and self-government proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence be destroyed by the very institution that that document assured would be established to protect those rights?  How can a liberty-minded people buy into this fatal argument that it is OK for the US government, a creature of the People themselves, to take a hostile position with respect to the Declaration of Independence and deny them the promise “that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”  How is it that a nation so singular in its purpose when it fought the Revolutionary War (to secede from an oppressive government, in order to live free and govern themselves accordingly) has deteriorated to the point that its people can no longer make the essential connection between their Constitution and the principles proclaimed in the Declaration which underlie it?  It was all about liberty and freedom – the condition of independence (liberty) and the right to go about our business without being controlled or subjugated (freedom). In explaining why it was so important for our founding colonists to stand up against the growing tyranny of the British King and Parliament, Mercy Otis Warren perhaps articulated it best when he said, in 1774, “in order to preserve inviolate, and to convey to their children the inherent rights of men, conferred on all by the God of nature, and the privileges of Englishmen claimed by Americans from the sacred sanction of compacts.” And so the Declaration proclaimed the supremacy of Man (“to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle him”) and outlined the purpose of government (to secure and protect his rights). By the very words of the Declaration, man has inalienable rights that no government can take away and he has the right to defend them and preserve them. That’s why the document provides that man can “alter or abolish” his government when it becomes destructive of his rights and the free exercise thereof. In other words, the rights of man would always trump the power of government; and while man has the right of self-preservation, the government has no such right.

The Constitution merely designed a government according to the moral dictates of the Declaration. That’s why it was limited in scope and permeated with so many checks and balances in order that it remain so. Thomas Paine wrote: “A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated, or assumed. There are not other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.” Rights of Man (1791-1792)

The Supreme Court, in one of its earliest cases – Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance (1795), which addressed a property matter as between the states of Pennsylvania and Connecticut – Judge Paterson explained: “What is a Constitution?  It is the form of government, delineated by the mighty hand of the people, in which certain first principles of fundamental laws are established.  The Constitution is certain and fixed; it contains the permanent will of the people and is the supreme law of the land…”  [Indeed, the unprecedented task confronting the Court in its infancy was that of interpreting our new written constitution so as not to disturb the settled, existing framework of the document as written, intended, and understood by the States when they signed it. That task was short-lived].

We are NOT free when we wait for the government or for the Supreme Court to tell us what our rights are or tell us that avenues that were once open to us to restrain the power and influence of government over our once-free lives are no longer available (because they threaten the power of government).

Again, the government was instituted to protect that rights of self-government and self-determination for us; not to destroy them. And if we believe that we have the right to define our government and reclaim the rights that We the People are endowed with that a government is trying to take away or has taken away, then we have to believe in Nullification. It is the rightful constitutional remedy that restores the proper balance of sovereign power – peacefully.

Unfortunately, all too often the government is more concerned in controlling the governed rather than controlling itself, and so the responsibility falls to us to control it.

E.  The Misrepresentation that the Courts Have the Final Word

In 1958, in the case Cooper v. Aaron, the Supreme Court rejected the doctrines of Nullification and Interposition, asserting that states have no right to refuse to enforce federal law (even when that law is one created from the bench rather than the legislature). A person who is brainwashed into believing that the federal judiciary was established to be the one final tribunal to declare what the Constitution means and which laws are constitutional and therefore bind all states and persons to those decisions has not done his or her homework. That person is a sheep.. the kind of citizen that an all-powerful government treasures and hopes to multiply.

Our Founders had something quite different in mind. Sure, Founders like Alexander Hamilton believed it best that one tribunal speak on constitutionality – for consistency. But that voice was only to render an opinion and not to have the power of supremacy.

With respect to the Founders’ intentions for the federal judiciary (as an independent branch), I tend to follow the view that Hamilton set forth in Federalist No. 78:

Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The Executive not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatsoever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.

      This simple view of the matter suggests several important consequences. It proves incontestably, that the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power; that it can never attack with success either of the other two; and that all possible care is requisite to enable it to defend itself against their attacks. It equally proves, that though individual oppression may now and then proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter….. Liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but would have everything to fear from its union with either of the other departments; that as all the effects of such a union must ensue from a dependence of the former on the latter, notwithstanding a nominal and apparent separation; that as, from the natural feebleness of the judiciary, it is in continual jeopardy of being overpowered, awed, or influenced by its co-ordinate branches; and that as nothing can contribute so much to its firmness and independence as permanency in office, this quality may therefore be justly regarded as an indispensable ingredient in its constitution, and, in a great measure, as the citadel of the public justice and the public security.

      Some perplexity respecting the rights of the courts to pronounce legislative acts void, because contrary to the Constitution, has arisen from an imagination that the doctrine would imply a superiority of the judiciary to the legislative power. It is urged that the authority which can declare the acts of another void, must necessarily be superior to the one whose acts may be declared void. As this doctrine is of great importance in all the American constitutions, a brief discussion of the ground on which it rests cannot be unacceptable.

       There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.

       If it be said that the legislative body are themselves the constitutional judges of their own powers, and that the construction they put upon them is conclusive upon the other departments, it may be answered, that this cannot be the natural presumption, where it is not to be collected from any particular provisions in the Constitution. It is not otherwise to be supposed, that the Constitution could intend to enable the representatives of the people to substitute their will to that of their constituents. It is far more rational to suppose, that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority. The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.

Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power. It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former. They ought to regulate their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental.

      This exercise of judicial discretion, in determining between two contradictory laws, is exemplified in a familiar instance. It not uncommonly happens, that there are two statutes existing at one time, clashing in whole or in part with each other, and neither of them containing any repealing clause or expression. In such a case, it is the province of the courts to liquidate and fix their meaning and operation. So far as they can, by any fair construction, be reconciled to each other, reason and law conspire to dictate that this should be done; where this is impracticable, it becomes a matter of necessity to give effect to one, in exclusion of the other. The rule which has obtained in the courts for determining their relative validity is, that the last in order of time shall be preferred to the first. But this is a mere rule of construction, not derived from any positive law, but from the nature and reason of the thing. It is a rule not enjoined upon the courts by legislative provision, but adopted by themselves, as consonant to truth and propriety, for the direction of their conduct as interpreters of the law. They thought it reasonable, that between the interfering acts of an EQUAL authority, that which was the last indication of its will should have the preference.

      But in regard to the interfering acts of a superior and subordinate authority, of an original and derivative power, the nature and reason of the thing indicate the converse of that rule as proper to be followed. They teach us that the prior act of a superior ought to be preferred to the subsequent act of an inferior and subordinate authority; and that accordingly, whenever a particular statute contravenes the Constitution, it will be the duty of the judicial tribunals to adhere to the latter and disregard the former.

It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure to the constitutional intentions of the legislature. This might as well happen in the case of two contradictory statutes; or it might as well happen in every adjudication upon any single statute. The courts must declare the sense of the law; and if they should be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT, the consequence would equally be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body. The observation, if it prove anything, would prove that there ought to be no judges distinct from that body.

      If, then, the courts of justice are to be considered as the bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments, this consideration will afford a strong argument for the permanent tenure of judicial offices, since nothing will contribute so much as this to that independent spirit in the judges which must be essential to the faithful performance of so arduous a duty… ”     [Then Hamilton goes on to explain that judges of the federal judiciary will be insulted from the passions of temporary political whims or majorities who want the legislature to act in violation of the Constitution by account of their life tenure.  That is what, in his opinion, would keep the federal judiciary as the faithful check on the other branches by reviewing their actions for constitutionality and rendering constitutional ‘opinions’].

The intended role of the judiciary, both generally and specifically, was to serve as the “bulwarks of a limited constitution against legislative encroachments.” (Federalist No. 78). The Founders believed that the judges would “regulate their decisions” by the word and spirit of the Constitution for the preservation of that limited government which was so necessary for maximum liberty. As the “faithful guardians of the Constitution,” the judges were expected to resist any political effort to depart from its literal provisions. The text of the Constitution and the original intention of those who framed and ratified it would be the judicial standard in giving it effect and preserving its integrity.

The Court was intended to strictly interpret and offer an opinion as to the meaning of the Constitution, as well as the legality of the actions of the Executive and Legislative branches. It was intended to protect the People from unjust laws and oppressive conduct by their government. As James Madison explained, the Constitution was written the way it was in order “to first enable the government to control the governed and in the next place, to oblige it to control itself.” An independent, constitutionally-bound judiciary was the oversight which was created to remind the other branches to control itself.

From what I understand from the Federalist Papers and the intent of the Founders, the power to interpret the Constitution should reside with the federal judiciary in order that there be one tribunal that speaks with one voice, rather than opinions all over the place by each of the states. But the Supreme Court was not intended to do anymore than offer “an opinion” as to the meaning of a particular provision of the Constitution or as to the constitutionality of a particular piece of legislation. The Court was supposed to interpret strictly in accordance to the plain meaning and the spirit of the ratifying conventions. Once the Court rendered an “opinion,” it was the understanding that the other branches would respond accordingly, ie, Congress would repeal a bill that was passed without proper and express authority, or if it refused to do so, the President would veto it (under the checks and balances). States would refuse to enact legislation that violated the Supremacy Clause. In other words, how the other branches responded to the ‘opinion” was their concern, but as to the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches (together with the state’s direct voice in the Senate), and then the voice of the States under the 10th Amendment and the people’s power at the ballot box, in the end the only actions of the government that would be enforced at the state level (ie, on the People) would be those that adhere to the language and spirit of the Constitution.

Founders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison quickly saw the threat the federal judiciary posed to a constitutionally-limited government. It’s one of reasons why Jefferson, when discussing the possible remedies available when the federal government oversteps its constitutional boundaries, expressly rejected the federal courts. He strongly advised the States and the People NOT to trust the judiciary with their precious liberties. Again, he expressed the opinion that the States were the best and most reliable guardians of that precious jewel and that’s why Nullification was the “Rightful Remedy.”

Here are some of the warnings and comments he made about the federal judiciary (again, being mindful that he was witnessing firsthand how the Supreme Court was actively re-defining the Constitution and undermining its guarantees of individual liberty):

To consider the Judges of the Superior Court as the ultimate arbiters of constitutional questions would be a dangerous doctrine which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. They have with others, the same passion for party, for power, and for the privileges of their corps – and their power is the most dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the Elective control. The Constitution has elected no single tribunal.  I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves.”   [in a letter to William C. Jarvis, 1820]

The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary: an irresponsible body, working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed; because, when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”    [in a letter to Charles Hammond, August 18, 1821]

The judiciary of the United States is a subtle core of sappers and miners constantly working underground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a coordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone. The opinions are often delivered by a majority of one, by a crafty Chief Judge who sophisticates the law to his mind by the turn of his own reasoning.”   [in a letter to Thomas Ritchie, December 1820]

The question whether the judges are invested with exclusive authority to decide on the constitutionality of a law has been heretofore a subject of consideration with me in the exercise of official duties. Certainly there is not a word in the Constitution which has given that power to them more than to the Executive or Legislative branches.”    [in a letter to W. H. Torrance, 1815]

The Constitution meant that its coordinate branches should be checks on each other. But the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.”    [in a letter to Abigail Adams, 1804]

The true barriers of our liberty are our State governments; and the wisest conservative power ever contrived by man, is that of which our Revolution and present government found us possessed.”   [in a letter to L. C. Destutt de Tracy, 1811]

The powers of the Supreme Court were fundamentally transformed – enlarged – by the Court itself in 1803 in the case Marbury v. Madison. In the opinion he wrote in that landmark case, Chief Justice Marshall declared that the Court had much more power than merely offering an opinion to the other branches. Not only would the Court have power to render opinions to the other branches and to “put the States and the People on notice,” it would also have enforcement power. It would be the final word on matters of the Constitution to which all sovereigns would be bound… (Unfortunately, the Court is part of the federal government and not necessarily a fair umpire for the parties to the social compact that is the US Constitution. The decision, to me, seems to contradict that which Hamilton sought to assure the States in Federalist No. 78 – that the judiciary would not be superior to the other branches such that its decisions would not be subject to checks from the other branches (or the States). And it seems to contradict what the states found so troubling with a proposed federal government that had stronger powers than the Continental Congress under the Articles – that the federal government would have the tendency to become centralized, at the expense of the States, and would have the exclusive domain to define what its powers are.

If we had remained with that pre-Marshall definition of the Court’s power, then the States would have clearly been able to check the opinion of the federal judiciary by either concurring with it and abiding happily by the decision (relying on their understanding of the Constitution through the Federalist Papers and their ratification debates) or disagreeing and thus ignoring it.

Marbury is not entirely a bad decision. Strict constitutionalists will agree that parts of Marshall’s analysis are spot on.

The facts of the case, in and of themselves, give support to the skepticism that Thomas Jefferson had of the federal judiciary and its capacity to align itself with evil-intentioned government officials rather than act as a neutral and constitutionally-restrained independent tribunal. The case arose as John Adams tried to stack the federal courts with Federalists in his final hours as President in a move to frustrate the incoming Thomas Jefferson (who, after the attempt to establish a Federal Bank and the seeming concurrence of many Federalists with Hamilton’s position of “implied government powers). Adams made the commissions and handed them to his Secretary of State to deliver them. All were delivered except for a few, one of which was the appointment for William Marbury. The appointments were made pursuant to the Judiciary Act of 1801, which Adams had Congress pass in a specific attempt to stack the courts.

After the Constitution was ratified, the first Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789 which established the federal court system. It established a Supreme Court (with a Chief Justice and 5 associate justices), three circuit courts, and 13 district courts (one district court for each of the 13 states). In November 1800, Adams lost his bid for re-election. Jefferson was elected President. Turns out the Congress changed hands as well. The Federalists, who had been in power, lost control of the House and Senate. But for those few months before Jefferson and the new Congress took office, the Federalists still had control. As I mentioned above, in order to frustrate his nemesis and his administration, Adams persuaded Congress to pass a new law – the Judiciary Act of 1801 – which would increase the number of judges sitting on the federal benches and therefore give him the opportunity to appoint several new federal (Federalist) judges. Section 13 of the Judicary Act provided: :The Supreme Court shall have power to issue writs of prohibition to the district courts and writs of mandamus to any courts appointed, or persons holding office, under the authority of the United States.”

Adams appointed about 39 new judges pursuant to the Judiciary Act. His Secretary of State delivered them successfully. However, he failed to deliver the commissions of 3 new justices before Adams’ term of office ended. Again, one of those commissions was to go to William Marbury. When Jefferson took office in March 1801 and learned of Adams’ attempt to pack the courts with Federalists, as well as the failure to successfully deliver the 3 commissions, he instructed his Secretary of State, James Madison, to refuse the appointments. Marbury then applied to the Supreme Court for the remedy offered him under Section 13 of the Judiciary Act.

The case asked 3 questions: (1) Does Marbury have a right to the appointment? (2) Does the law afford him a remedy? and (3) Is the law that affords that remedy constitutional? Chief Justice Marshall concluded that Marbury had a right to the appointment and that the Judiciary Act offered him a remedy to assert that right. But the case boiled down to the question of whether Section 13 conflicted with the Constitution, and he concluded that it did. It improperly enlarged the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Article III established original jurisdiction and Congress does not have the power to alter the Constitution (only the amendment process can do that).

In reaching the decision that Section 13 is unenforceable, Justice Marshall articulated several principles that re-enforce the notion of limited government, social compact, original intent, and yes, nullification. He wrote:

The question whether an act repugnant to the Constitution can become the law of the land is a question deeply interesting to the United States, but, happily, not of an intricacy proportioned to its interest. It seems only necessary to recognize certain principles, supposed to have been long and well established, to decide it.

      That the people have an original right to establish for their future government such principles as, in their opinion, shall most conduce to their own happiness is the basis on which the whole American fabric has been erected. The exercise of this original right is a very great exertion; nor can it nor ought it to be frequently repeated. The principles, therefore, so established are deemed fundamental. And as the authority from which they proceed, is supreme, and can seldom act, they are designed to be permanent.

      This original and supreme will organizes the government and assigns to different departments their respective powers. It may either stop here or establish certain limits not to be transcended by those departments.

      The Government of the United States is of the latter description. The powers of the Legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the Constitution is written. To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may at any time be passed by those intended to be restrained? The distinction between a government with limited and unlimited powers is abolished if those limits do not confine the persons on whom they are imposed, and if acts prohibited and acts allowed are of equal obligation. It is a proposition too plain to be contested that the Constitution controls any legislative act repugnant to it, or that the Legislature may alter the Constitution by an ordinary act.

     Between these alternatives there is no middle ground. The Constitution is either a superior, paramount law, unchangeable by ordinary means, or it is on a level with ordinary legislative acts, and, like other acts, is alterable when the legislature shall please to alter it.

     If the former part of the alternative be true, then a legislative act contrary to the Constitution is not law; if the latter part be true, then written Constitutions are absurd attempts on the part of the people to limit a power in its own nature illimitable.

      Certainly all those who have framed written Constitutions contemplate them as forming the fundamental and paramount law of the nation, and consequently the theory of every such government must be that an act of the Legislature repugnant to the Constitution is void. This theory is essentially attached to a written Constitution and is consequently to be considered by this Court as one of the fundamental principles of our society. the particular phraseology of the Constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written Constitutions, that a law repugnant to the Constitution is void, and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.”

 From these and many other selections which might be made, it is apparent that the framers of the Constitution contemplated that instrument as a rule for the government of courts, as well as of the Legislature.  The particular phraseology of the Constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written constitutions, that a law repugnant to that Constitution is void and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.

      If the courts aren’t bound by the phraseology of the Constitution, why does it direct the judges to take an oath to support it? This oath certainly applies in an especial manner to their conduct in their official character. How immoral to impose it on them if they were to be used as the instruments, and the knowing instruments, for violating what they swear to support! The oath of office, too, imposed by the Legislature, is completely demonstrative of the legislative opinion on this subject. It is in these words: 

      ‘I do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich; and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties incumbent on me as according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United States.’

      Why does a judge swear to discharge his duties agreeably to the Constitution of the United States if that Constitution forms no rule for his government? If such be the real state of things, this is worse than solemn mockery. To prescribe or to take this oath becomes equally a crime.

      It is also not entirely unworthy of observation that, in declaring what shall be the supreme law of the land, the Constitution itself is first mentioned, and not the laws of the United States generally, but those only which shall be made in pursuance of the Constitution, have that rank. [pp. 176-182]

The problem arose when Marshall announced that the Court would possess the power of deciding upon the “operation” of the law being scrutinized. The Court would made the final decision and all branches, all state courts, etc would be bound by its decision.

The problem with believing the indoctrination that when the Supreme Court speaks, the issue of supremacy is determined without question is that it compromises our notion of Liberty and our fundamental belief that our government is a creature of the People, constrained by the Rule of Law.

The central point behind nullification is that the federal government cannot be permitted to hold a monopoly on constitutional interpretation. If the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, it will, without a shadow of a doubt, continue to grow, regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and the various checks and balances. There should be no more powerful indictment of this statement than the Supreme Court’s approval of Obamacare and its ringing endorsement of an unlimited taxing power.

Part 4: Why Nullification? 

The TRUTH about Nullification is that it is legitimate and is the only way to effect a meaningful check on the federal government when the executive, legislative, and judicial branches unite on an incorrect interpretation of the Constitution and threaten the independence of the States and the reserved rights of the People. The federal government CANNOT be permitted to hold a monopoly on constitutional interpretation. If the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, as Madison and Jefferson warned in 1798-99, it will continue to grow – regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and other limits on government power. Nullification has always been available to push the government back within the boundaries of the Constitution but for too long, those hostile to the Constitution have insinuated – FALSELY – that the doctrine was the reason for the Civil War and for segregation, thereby trying to use shame to invalidate it.

We should take a cue from Patrick Henry. When others were celebrating the Constitution and rejoicing that a more effective compact was created, Henry urged them to cool their heads and take a step back and look carefully at the document they were asked to ratify.  It was his opinion that the government created by the Constitution would tend to concentrate power, strip power from the states, and become no better than England’s monarchy (“it squints toward monarchy”).  He urged Virginia to reject the Constitution. He reminded the delegates that trade, power, and security should not be the first concerns on their mind.  He said the proper inquiry should be “how your liberties can be better secured, for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.”

On that first day of the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1788, Patrick Henry addressed the delegates with these words:

Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessing — give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else!  Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.   

       When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different..  Liberty, sir, was then the primary object. We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty: our glorious forefathers of Great Britain made liberty the foundation of everything. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors: by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire. If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together. Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government. What can avail your specious, imaginary balances, your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous ideal checks and contrivances? But, sir, we are not feared by foreigners; we do not make nations tremble. Would this constitute happiness, or secure liberty? I trust, sir, our political hemisphere will ever direct their operations to the security of those objects.”

The jury is still out on this thing we call the Great American Experiment. We separated from Great Britain when we insisted on governing ourselves consistent without our own values. Those values were articulated in the Declaration of Independence. Contrary to the “divine right of Kings” which was the system respected in Britain, the American colonies would establish a government “of the people, by the people, and FOR the people.” It would go one step further.. it would establish a government whose powers were derived from the people themselves (so that the people could always take them back when they were fed up with that government). While the British people had to stand up for their rights many times, Americans have never done so since the Revolutionary War. The British protested and demanded that the King respect their rights in 1100 (resulting in the 1100 Charter of Liberties), in 1215 (the Magna Carta or “Great Charter”), in 1628 (the Petition of Right of 1628), in 1641 (The Grand Remonstrances of 1641), in 1679 (the Habeas Corpus Act), and finally in 1689 (English Bill of Rights of 1689).  [The Grand Remonstrances and The English Bill of Rights, like our Declaration of Independence, set out lists of grievances against the King for usurpations of the rights that were proclaimed in the earlier charters]. The interesting thing about history of the British people in asserting their rights and demanding restraint from their government is that each time they did so, they were able to secure greater freedom. We can take a lesson from British history. There is another great distinction between the British and our system. When the Kings signed those charters, they often did so very reluctantly. For example, almost immediately after  King John (the infamous King John of the Robin Hood legend) signed the Magna Carta, he ignored it. It was ignored on and off until the 17th century. The point is that the rights of the people were enjoyed at the mercy of the King. There was no meaningful way to enforce the charters. Parliament tried to, but as with King Charles I (son of King James I, who granted the charters to the Pilgrims and Puritans to settle in America), when Parliament tried to force his hand, he turned around and dissolved it. Our Founding Fathers intended that our Constitution and Bill of Rights would be stand the test of time, guarantee the proper relationship between the People and government, and not jeopardize the rights and liberties of the people. That’s why they divided power among two equal sovereigns (power to check power) and why they included so many checks and balances. To deny Nullification is a dangerous decision. To deny it is to: (i) deny the wisdom of our Founders; (ii) trust your rights to a government which is growing more hostile to them by the day; and (iii) submit to the notion that government is capable of restraining itself and capable of divesting itself of all the unconstitutional powers it has already assumed and repealing such laws it has passed.

Liberty must always come first. Liberty is a gift, as KrisAnne Hall says, that we must pay forward. We don’t pay it forward by not second-guessing the actions of the federal government, especially when we know it likes to enlarge its powers at every chance.  We don’t pay it forward by accepting the government’s version that constitutional remedies that were put in place by our Founders to preserve the rights on which this country are founded are no longer valid. We pay it forward by preserving it. We do that by using every option we have to limit the intrusion of government in our lives and over our property. Our Constitution is not the living, breathing document that the progressives and federal judges claim it to be, for if that is the case, it can be twisted so completely as to destroy our understanding of it.  The only thing that is living and breathing is us, the citizens of the United States who have inherited a precious gift of freedom to live our lives and raise our families. And so let’s use the common sense and spark of brilliance that God so endowed us with when he also endowed us with free will and inherent rights.

References:

Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 (1958).  http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/358/1/case.html

Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 5 U. S. 177 (1803)

Ableman v. Booth, 62 U.S. 506 (1858). http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/62/506/case.html

In re Booth, 3 Wis. 1 (1854). http://www.wicourts.gov/courts/supreme/docs/famouscases01.pdf

Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance, 2 U.S. 304, 308 (1795).  http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch16s24.html

Robert Lowry Clinton, “The Supreme Court Before John Marshall,” Supreme Court Historical Society.  Referenced at: http://www.supremecourthistory.org/publications/the-supreme-court-before-john-marshall/

Walter Coffey, “Nullifying the Fugitive Slave Law,” February 3, 2013.  Referenced at: http://waltercoffey.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/nullifying-the-fugitive-slave-act/

Federalist Papers No. 33 – http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa33.htm

The Kentucky Resolves of 1799 (Thomas Jefferson) –  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/kenres.asp

The Virginia Resolves of 1798 (James Madison) –  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/virres.asp

Edwin Meese III, “The Law of the Constitution,” October 21, 1986  (speech transcript) – http://www.justice.gov/ag/aghistory/meese/meese-speeches.html

Patrick Henry, speech before the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1788 – http://www.constitution.org/rc/rat_va_04.htm#henry-01

Thomas DiLorenzo, “More on the Myth of Lincoln, Secession and the ‘Civil War,”  The Daily Bell, June 2, 2013.  Referenced at:  http://www.thedailybell.com/29156/Thomas-DiLorenzo-More-on-the-Myth-of-Lincoln-Secession-and-the-Civil-War

Full text of “American patriotism: speeches, letters, and other papers which illustrate the foundation, the development, the preservation of the United States of America”  – http://www.archive.org/stream/patriotismam00peabrich/patriotismam00peabrich_djvu.txt

The 221st Anniversary of the Bill of Rights Should Inspire States to Re-Assert Sovereignty

Bill of Rights-scroll      by Diane Rufino, December 30, 2012

December 15 was Bill of Rights Day.  It marks the 221st anniversary of the day when the first ten amendments – our Bill of Rights – were ratified in 1791.

The Bill of Rights is among those documents classified as “Charters of Freedom.”  It belongs with the list that includes the Magna Carta, the Habeas Corpus Act, the English Petition of Right, the English Bill of Rights, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and the Virginia Declaration of Rights.  We are reminded everyday of regimes all over the world where people enjoy no fundamental rights, no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly. We read about abusive judicial systems that lack of guarantees of due process, jury trials, and protection against self-incrimination. And we hear about oppressive police states where unreasonable searches and seizures and cruel and unusual punishment are commonplace. All of these places lack the protection of basic human rights that make this country  the land of the free.

When our Constitution was first established, it was assumed that the description of specific powers granted to the government would leave no doubt as to what the government could and could not do, and that the absence of powers over the rights of the people would leave those rights protected.  But Thomas Jefferson and others were wary of leaving such important matters up to inference. They insisted on a Bill of Rights that would state in unmistakable terms those rights of the people that must be left inviolate. In 1787, Jefferson wrote to James Madison:  ”A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences.”  September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the final draft of the Constitution and left to go back to their states.  When Jefferson learned that the draft did not contain a Bill of Rights, he noted that it was reckless. He commented that if the states even considered ratifying it, it would amount to “a degeneracy in the principles of liberty.”

As it turned out, the Madison should have listened to Jefferson because many of the states would not ratify it without a Bill of Rights.

When the delegates at the Convention finished their work in Philadelphia, the only thing they created was a “proposal.”  That proposal for a Union, held together by the scheme of federal government outlined in Articles I – III, would have to go to all the states for ratification. Nine of the 13 states would have to ratify it for the Constitution to become effective for those ratifying states. But quickly, a fierce debate broke out in the states – between the Federalists (who were the majority at the Convention) and the Anti-Federalists (who were suspicious of the power delegated to the proposed federal government).  The Federalists, of course, argued that the Constitution should be approved, but the Anti-Federalists urged the states not to ratify it.  They were aggressive in their criticisms, and soon essays written by several of the anti-Federalists appeared in publications in the several states.  They appeared under various assumed names, such as Brutus, Cato, Centinel, Aristocrotis, and the Federal Farmer.  George Clinton, the Governor of New York, Richard Henry Lee and James Mason of Virginia, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Elbridge Gerry, Nathaniel Ames, and James Winthrop of Massachusetts, and even Patrick Henry were anti-Federalists.  Alexander Hamilton and John Jay of New York, and James Madison of Virginia, all representing key states that were siding with the anti-Federalists, got together to write a series of 85 essays that explained the Constitution in detail and addressed the criticisms outlined in the Anti-Federalist Papers. These would become known as The Federalist Papers.

For many states, the decision to support or oppose the new plan of government came down to one issue – whether their sovereign powers and the individual liberties of the People were jeopardized by its lack of a Bill of Rights. After all, they had rebelled against Britain because it had in their view ceased to respect their age-old liberties as Englishmen—liberties enshrined in the 1215 Magna Carta and the 1689 English Declaration of Rights.  Having fought a long war to protect these rights, were they then to sacrifice them to their own government?  Others countered that a bill of rights actually endangered their liberties…  that listing the rights a government could not violate implied that unlisted rights could be restricted or abolished.  After much discussion at the Philadelphia Convention, the majority of the delegates were of the latter opinion. But that decision cost the signatures of several high-profile delegates, such as George Mason and Edmund Randolph of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts.  George Mason felt that the Constitution did not adequately provide protection for the states’ rights and interests, Elbridge Gerry was not happy with the commerce power delegated to the federal government or with the taxing power which he felt might be burdensome on the states, and Randolph, a lawyer, was not content with the looseness of some of the language, fearing that future generations, and particularly the government itself, would seek sweeping changes to the meaning and intent of the document. [Edmund Randolph was the author of the Virginia Plan which was presented at the Constitutional Convention and George Mason was the author of Virginia’s Bill of Rights].

Many of the state conventions ratified the Constitution, but called for amendments specifically protecting individual rights from abridgement by the federal government. The debate raged for months. By June of 1788, with assurances that a Bill of Rights would be proposed, nine states had ratified the Constitution, ensuring it would go into effect for those nine states.  However, key states including Virginia and New York had not ratified and it wasn’t sure that they would without an actual Bill of Rights. After all, the colonies had rebelled against Britain because it had in their view ceased to respect their age-old liberties as Englishmen – liberties enshrined in the Magna Carta (“Great Charter”) of 1215 and the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Having fought a long and bitter war to protect these rights, were the states willing to sacrifice them to their own government?

In Virginia, Patrick Henry was accusing the proposed government of ‘tending or squinting toward the monarchy’ and being a ‘national’ rather than a ‘federal’ one, with no effective checks and balances against a majority or against a government determined to usurp power and no Bill of Rights to curb government power.  He warned: “This proposal of altering our Federal Government is of a most alarming nature.  You ought to be extremely cautious, watchful, jealous of your liberty, for instead of securing your rights you may lose them forever. If a wrong step be now made, the republic may be lost forever. If this new Government will not come up to the expectation of the people, and they should be disappointed – their liberty will be lost, and tyranny must and will arise. I repeat it again, and I beg Gentlemen to consider, that a wrong step made now will plunge us into misery, and our Republic will be lost.”  He continued: “Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings, gave us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else! … The Confederation, this same despised government, merits, in my opinion, the highest encomium; it carried us through a long and dangerous war; it rendered us victorious in that bloody conflict with a powerful nation; it has secured us a territory greater than any European monarch possesses; and shall a government which has been thus strong and vigorous, be accused of imbecility, and abandoned for want of energy? Consider what you are about to do before you part with the government … We are cautioned by the honorable gentleman who presides against faction and turbulence. I acknowledge also the new form of government may effectually prevent it; yet there is another thing it will as effectually do: it will oppress and ruin the people. … This Constitution is said to have beautiful features, but when I come to examine these features, sir, they appear to me horribly frightful; among other deformities, it has an awful squinting-it squints towards monarchy; and does not this raise indignation in the breast of every true American? Your President may easily become king; your senate is so imperfectly constructed that your dearest rights may be sacrificed by what may be a small minority; and a very small minority may continue forever unchangeably this government, although horribly defective: where are your checks in this government?”

James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution, knew that grave doubts would be cast on the Constitution if Virginia and New York (the home states of several of its chief architects, including Madison himself, and the authors of the Federalist Papers) did not adopt it.  Perhaps he got that impression after Patrick Henry addressed the Virginia Ratification Convention on June 16, 1788 and spoke the following words:

“Mr. Chairman, the necessity of a Bill of Rights appears to me to be greater in this government than ever it was in any government before.  Let us consider the sentiments which have been entertained by the people of America on this subject. At the revolution, it must be admitted that it was their sense to set down those great rights which ought, in all countries, to be held inviolable and sacred. Virginia did so, we all remember. She made a compact to reserve, expressly, certain rights.

When fortified with full, adequate, and abundant representation, was she satisfied with that representation?  No.  She most cautiously and guardedly reserved and secured those invaluable, inestimable rights and privileges, which no people, inspired with the least glow of patriotic liberty, ever did, or ever can, abandon.

She is called upon now to abandon them and dissolve that compact which secured them to her. She is called upon to accede to another compact, which most infallibly supersedes and annihilates her present one. Will she do it?  This is the question. If you intend to reserve your unalienable rights, you must have the most express stipulation; for, if implication be allowed, you are ousted of those rights. If the people do not think it necessary to reserve them, they will be supposed to be given up.

How were the congressional rights defined when the people of America united by a confederacy to defend their liberties and rights against the tyrannical attempts of Great Britain? The states were not then contented with implied reservation. No, Mr. Chairman. It was expressly declared in our Confederation that every right was retained by the states, respectively, which was not given up to the government of the United States. But there is no such thing here. You, therefore, by a natural and unavoidable implication, give up your rights to the general government.

Your own example furnishes an argument against it. If you give up these powers, without a Bill of Rights, you will exhibit the most absurd thing to mankind that ever the world saw – a government that has abandoned all its powers…. the powers of direct taxation, the sword, and the purse. You have disposed of them to Congress, without a Bill of Rights, without check, limitation, or control. And still you have checks and guards; still you keep barriers – pointed where?  Pointed against your weakened, prostrated, enervated state government! You have a Bill of Rights to defend you against the state government, which is bereaved of all power, and yet you have none against Congress, though in full and exclusive possession of all power! You arm yourselves against the weak and defenseless, and expose yourselves naked to the armed and powerful. Is not this a conduct of unexampled absurdity? What barriers have you to oppose to this most strong, energetic government? To that government you have nothing to oppose. All your defense is given up. This is a real, actual defect. It must strike the mind of every gentleman.

When our government was first instituted in Virginia, we declared the common law of England to be in force.  By this (federal) Constitution, some of the best barriers of human rights are thrown away. That system of law which has been admired and which has protected us and our ancestors, has been excluded.  Is this not enough of a reason to have a Bill of Rights?”

It was during this Ratification Convention in Virginia that Madison promised that a Bill of Rights would be drafted and submitted to the States. His promise reassured the convention delegates and the Constitution was approved in that state by the narrowest margin, 89-87. New York soon followed, but submitted proposed amendments. Two states, Rhode Island and North Carolina, refused to ratify without a Bill of Rights. North Carolina refused to ratify in July 1788, and Rhode Island rejected it by popular referendum in March 1788 and North Carolina refused to ratify it in their convention in July.

A year later, on June 8, 1789, referring to Virginia’s Declaration of Rights and the recommendations of the several state ratifying conventions, Madison proposed a series of 20 amendments to the first Congress. He had kept his promise and did so with utmost urgency, for the First US Congress only convened three months earlier, on March 4 (and George Washington had only been inaugurated as the nation’s first US President on April 31st).  In the speech he gave to Congress to propose the amendments, he said:

“It appears to me that this house is bound by every motive of prudence, not to let the first session pass over without proposing to the state legislatures some things (amendments) to be incorporated into the Constitution, as will render it as acceptable to the whole people of the United States…. It will be a desirable thing to extinguish from the bosom of every member of the community any apprehensions that there are those among his countrymen who wish to deprive them of the liberty for which they valiantly fought and honorably bled.

In some instances the states assert those rights which are exercised by the people in forming and establishing a plan of government. In other instances, they specify those rights which are retained when particular powers are given up to be exercised by the legislature. In other instances, they specify positive rights, which may seem to result from the nature of the compact. Trial by jury cannot be considered as a natural right, but a right resulting from the social compact which regulates the action of the community, but is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature. In other instances they lay down dogmatic maxims with respect to the construction of the government; declaring, that the legislative, executive, and judicial branches shall be kept separate and distinct: Perhaps the best way of securing this in practice is to provide such checks, as will prevent the encroachment of the one upon the other.

But whatever may be form which the several states have adopted in making declarations in favor of particular rights, the great object in view is to limit and qualify the powers of government, by excepting out of the grant of power those cases in which the government ought not to act, or to act only in a particular mode. They point these exceptions sometimes against the abuse of the executive power, sometimes against the legislative, and, in some cases, against the community itself; or, in other words, against the majority in favor of the minority.

If they are incorporated into the constitution, independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of those rights; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive; they will be naturally led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the constitution by the declaration of rights. Beside this security, there is a great probability that such a declaration in the federal system would be enforced; because the state legislatures will jealously and closely watch the operation of this government, and be able to resist with more effect every assumption of power than any other power on earth can do; and the greatest opponents to a federal government admit the state legislatures to be sure guardians of the people’s liberty. I conclude from this view of the subject, that it will be proper in itself, and highly politic, for the tranquility of the public mind, and the stability of the government, that we should offer something, in the form I have proposed, to be incorporated in the system of government, as a declaration of the rights of the people.

I am convinced of the absolute necessity (of these amendments).  I think we should obtain the confidence of our fellow citizens, in proportion as we fortify the rights of the people against the encroachments of the government.”

In his speech, Madison emphasized the great concern of the states –  How to prevent the encroachments of government?  As he explained, the ten amendments to the Constitution – the Bill of Rights – were crafted to “limit and qualify the powers of government, by excepting out of the grant of power those cases in which the government ought not to act, or to act only in a particular mode.”  It was not individual freedom that the states wanted.  After all, under the American system, all men were created with inalienable rights that come from our Creator and not government.  No, our Founders and state leaders wanted freedom from government. The Bill of Rights doesn’t grant rights. Rather, it recognizes rights. It requires that the government not interfere with those rights. In other words, our Founders and state leaders wanted constitutional liberty. “If they are incorporated into the Constitution, independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of those rights; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive; they will be naturally led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the Constitution by the declaration of rights.”  It was a hopeful plan.

In fact is that the plan was not the brainchild of the Federalists, who won the day at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. It wasn’t the brainchild of James Madison, initially an avowed Nationalist. The Constitution was amended by the States because of the influence of the anti-Federalists. While it was the Federalists (in the true sense of their name) who rejected the Virginia Plan and supported state representation in the legislature (giving the government itself a “federal” nature),  it wasn’t enough for those who wanted more protection and security for the rights of the States and individuals.

[Note that our Founders, as early as the Constitutional Convention in 1787, came to appreciate state representation in government. They referred to it as providing a state ‘negative’ (a veto power) in government, in order to safeguard the rights, powers, and interests of the states. The same sentiment was emphasized in the state ratifying conventions, only in stronger language.  For those who question the legitimacy of nullification, we can see its very origins in the states’ representation in government. It is clear that the doctrine was part of the dialogue in our nation’s very founding and was implicit in the very design of government].

It was Thomas Jefferson who impressed upon Madison the need for a Bill of Rights. He urged him to heed the concerns of the anti-Federalists, which now became the concern of the various states.  The over-arching concern was the rise of national power at the expense of state power. For example, the Federal Farmer (authored most likely by Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia), in stressing the necessity of a Bill of Rights and protections against a consolidation of power in government, wrote: “Our object has been all along to reform our federal system and to strengthen our governments… However, the plan of government is evidently calculated totally to change, in time, our condition as a people.  Instead of being thirteen republics under a federal head, it is clearly designed to make us one consolidated government.”  George Mason, a delegate to the Philadelphia Convention who refused to support the Constitution, explained that the plan was “totally subversive of every principle which has hitherto governed us. This power is calculated to annihilate totally the state governments.” Brutus, another anti-Federalist, wrote: “The best government for America is a confederation of independent states for the conducting of certain general concerns, in which they have a common interest, leaving the management of their internal and local affairs to their separate governments.  How far shall the powers of the states extend is the question.”

Centinel, yet another Anti-Federalist, reminded readers of the nature of republics. Agreeing with Montesquieu (one of the philosophers our Founders relied heavily on), that a republic government could only survive in a small territory, the anti-Federalists came to the conclusion that America would have to be a federal republic and a union of states (and NOT the states united!).  As small republics themselves, the states would provide the foundation for republican and limited government in our new Union. “From the nature of things, from the opinions of the greatest writers and from the peculiar circumstances of the United States, it is not practical to establish and maintain one government on the principles of freedom in so extensive a territory. The only plausible system by which so extensive a country can be governed consistent with freedom is a confederation of republics, possessing all the powers of internal government and united in the management of their general and foreign concerns….”  [from Centinel]

Brutus agreed. “Neither the general government nor the state governments ought to be vested with all the powers to be exercised for promoting the ends of government. The powers are divided between them – certain ends are to be attained by the one and other certain ends by the other, and these, taken together, include all the ends of good government.”  [articulating our system of dual sovereignty].

Nathaniel Ames, of Massachusetts, wrote: “The state governments represent the wishes and feelings of the people. They are the safeguards and ornament of our liberties – they will afford a shelter against the abuse of power, and will be the natural avengers of our violated rights.”  Patrick Henry of Virginia agreed. He referred to the proposed government under the new Constitution a “consolidated and a dangerous” one, and added: “The States are the character and soul of a confederation.  If the states be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great consolidated national government, of the people of all the states…   The people sent delegates, but the states did.”

Taken together, the anti-Federalists concluded that the United States could only exist successfully as a nation if “distinct republics connected under a federal head. In this case the respective state governments must be the principal guardians of the peoples’ rights…. In them must rest the balance of government.”

The US House debated and discussed the proposed amendments, and eventually edited, re-worked, and consolidated them down into 17 amendments. The Senate took up the amendments and made their own edits and alterations, and in September, the two houses got together and reached a compromise. Twelve amendments were approved on September 25 and then sent to the States for ratification.  All in all, it has been said that only two major provisions among the proposed 19-20 original amendments were eliminated by the House and Senate.

The amendments were designed to protect the basic freedoms of US citizens from the reaches of government, namely the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and exercise of religion, the right to bear arms for self protection, the right to be secure in one’s person, home, and privacy against government searches and seizures, the right not to be denied Life, Liberty, or Property without due process, the right of habeas corpus, the right to fair criminal and civil legal proceedings and proper procedural safeguards,  and the right to be spared cruel and unusual punishment. Additionally, one amendment (the 9th Amendment) was included to memorialize the notion that sovereign power originates in the individual and another (the 10th Amendment) was included to memorialize the federal nation of our government system (“the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”).

Influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the Bill of Rights was also drawn, as mentioned above, from Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason in 1776.  While Mason refused to sign the Constitution drafted in Philadelphia, in the ratification struggle that followed, Mason and other critics agreed to support the Constitution in exchange for the assurance that amendments would be passed immediately. While our Bill of Rights was indeed strongly influenced by the plight of the British to limit the “divine” power of the King in their lives and the many charters of freedom they extracted from their rulers, James Madison saw one very important difference between those documents and the Constitution: “In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example of charters of power granted by liberty.”

On December 15, 1791, Virginia became the 10th of 14 states to approve 10 of the 12 amendments, thus giving the Bill of Rights the two-thirds majority required by Article V of the Constitution to go into effect.  Finally, the rights held most dearly by free men would not merely “rest on inference.”

In the end, the anti-Federalists won the day.

Of the two amendments not ratified, the first concerned the population system of representation, while the second prohibited laws varying the payment of congressional members from taking effect until an election intervened. The first of these two amendments was never ratified, while the second was finally ratified more than 200 years later, in 1992.

In 1789, the new Union of States was established under the US Constitution.  Its enumeration of limited powers was intended to provide a basis for unity but the flexibility the states sought to remain the sovereigns they wanted to be.  As Thomas Jefferson explained to Joseph Cabell in 1816: “The way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to everyone exactly the function he is competent to.  Let the National Government be entrusted with the defense of the nation and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself.  It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself; by placing under everyone what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best.”

While many Americans are familiar with the Bill of Rights and especially the ones that we hear often in the news and on pop culture law enforcement shows, no one mentions the preamble to the set of ten amendments ratified on December 15, 1791.  The Preamble to the Bill of Rights reads: “The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”  We see that the first ten amendments are intended to be “declaratory and restrictive clauses.”  This means they supersede all other parts of our Constitution and restrict the powers of our Constitution. The Bill of Rights is a declaration of restrictions to the powers delegated to the federal government.  While amendments one through eight (1-8) have some historical context and many are direct and almost verbatim texts from British compacts/charters, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are uniquely American.

Why is it that we never hear anyone refer to this phrase when looking for support of states’ rights?  This is probably the clearest expression of intent by the States to have the government respect their bulk of reserved sovereign powers.

The Bill of Rights was meant to prevent a repeat of the abuses that compelled our forefathers to take up arms.   It was meant as a shield to protect the people against tyranny, so that the sacrifices and bloodshed by our forefathers would not be in vain. History is repeating itself, and once again, a free people is engaged in the endless struggle between good and evil, between liberty and tyranny. Just like colonial times when a group of liberty-minded folks – the Sons of Liberty – emerged from the People to remind them of this struggle, the modern-day TEA party and other Liberty-minded groups have emerged to do the same thing. And like the Sons of Liberty, which started out as a small group of “agitators” in the several colonies, the Tea Party and other Liberty-minded groups are growing in number as well.  The problem in confronting the steady consolidation of power by the federal government has been the reluctance of states to stand up to their one-time “agent” (now their “master”).  Too many state leaders ignore their oaths of allegiance to the US Constitution and ignore the Ninth and Tenth Amendments – the very amendments they fought so hard in convention for. They question their right to second-guess the decisions of the federal government.  That’s like a 12-year-old bossing his parents around and the parents capitulating because they don’t feel they have the right to second-guess his actions or constrain his conduct.  When we have leaders who are supposed to be “on our side” – on the side of limited government and maximum liberty – but don’t fundamentally believe in our core conservative and government principles, then we have a problem.  We have this problem in my home state of  North Carolina.

North Carolina has a proud history of standing up against government oppression. It was the first state to push for a Declaration of Independence from Britain, it was the first state to authorize its delegates to vote such a Declaration, and it refused to sign the Constitution unless it was amended (to make sure power could not be concentrated in a federal government). And while Virginia (the home of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, and Patrick Henry) proposed twenty alterations to the Constitution and a separate Bill of Rights consisting of twenty items (modeled on George Mason’s 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights), North Carolina said they still weren’t good enough and wanted an additional six amendments.  North Carolina didn’t want to secede from the Union in 1861, but given the choice between being forced by President Lincoln to take up arms and use them on its southern neighbors (who had seceded peacefully and established a new nation), it chose to respect the freedoms laid out in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution and sever its political bonds with the federal government. With a history so rich and distinguished, it is a sad state of affairs when state leaders announce that they are powerless to question the actions of the federal government even when they know full well that the actions of our current administration are equally egregious to those committed by King George back in the 1770′s.

Other states have a similar history of freedom and have contributed greatly to our shared values and principles. What’s more, some of these states are beginning to re-assert their sovereignty under the 10th Amendment, as well as their “express desire” to “restrict the misconstruction” and “abuse” of federal powers, as they did when they adopted the Preamble and the Bill of Rights in 1791.  For example, the Montana state house passed a State Sovereignty resolution (House Joint Resolution H.J. 26) to assert state rights and define the “line in the sand” which separates the “numerous and indefinite” sovereign powers of the state from the “limited and defined”  sovereign powers of the federal government. [“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”   James Madison, Federalist Papers No. 45]   The Resolution declared that Montana would jealously guard certain rights and would not tolerate the government intruding in them.

In a time when the government is more concerned with its own existence and power than with protecting the rights and interests of a free and sovereign people, I would suggest that more states need to adopt resolutions like the one Montana endorsed (although the state senate did not pass) and draw that “line in the sand” and reverse the injustice that has been done to the American people over the last 145 years or so.  That line in the sand is necessary to re-establish the proper balance of power between the government and the states that the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, established in order that individual freedom is most firmly secured. It is necessary, as James Madison himself came to understand and appreciate, to maintain the strength of the individual states to “obtain the confidence of our fellow citizens, in proportion as we fortify the rights of the people against the encroachments of the government.”

Thomas Jefferson probably said it the best: “When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes a duty.”

A State Sovereignty Bill that my state of North Carolina should consider is as follows:

 

MODEL LEGISLATION AFFIRMING STATES’ RIGHTS AND CONDEMNING ENCROACHMENT OF THOSE RIGHTS BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND EXECUTIVE ORDERS

The government of the great State of North Carolina re-acknowledges and re-asserts the following:

(1).   The Constitution of the State of North Carolina declares that all political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole, and that the people of North Carolina have the inherent, sole, and exclusive right of regulating the internal government and police thereof, and of altering or abolishing their Constitution and form of government whenever it may be necessary to their safety and happiness; but every such right shall be exercised in pursuance of law and consistently with the Constitution of the United States.

(2).  The aforementioned “inherent and exclusive right” may never be expressly delegated to the United States Congress.

(3).  The Constitution that is legitimately recognized by the State of North Carolina is the one interpreted according to the intent of its creation, defined by Federalist Papers, limited by the understanding of the states and assurances given them when they signed the document in their Ratification Conventions, limited by the express language included in the Preamble of the Bill of Rights, limited by the full scope of each amendment comprising the Bill of Rights (including the Ninth and Tenth Amendments), limited by the essence of the Supremacy Clause (only those laws pursuant to a valid constitutional exercise of authority are supreme; all others are not), amended strictly and legitimately according to Article V,  and spirited by the federal design of our government system (which is our most critical of checks and balances).

(4).  The People of North Carolina together form a free, sovereign, and independent body politic (ie, a state) by the name of “The State of North Carolina.”

(5).  The People of North Carolina agree that all powers not expressly delegated to the federal government in the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights must be reserved and exercised by individual states or by themselves.

(6).  Although North Carolina became an independent and completely sovereign state on December 18, 1776, it freely entered into the federal Union on July 21, 1778 when it adopted the Articles of Confederation for mutual benefit and security (“Join or Die”) and re-committed itself to the Union on November 21, 1789 when it became the twelfth state to ratify the US Constitution.

(7).  When North Carolina agreed to join the Union, it did so by social compact.  In signing the Constitution, it established a social compact (or contract) with its fellow states, to delegate certain common functions to a common, federal government in order to act like a Union of states instead of 13 independent states.

(8).  A social compact must be implemented consistent with the terms and understandings in place at the time it is entered into.

(9).  Legally, a compact, like a contract, is valid only when the terms defining the responsibilities, burdens, and benefits of that agreement are still in place.  Once the terms are materially altered, the contract no longer legally binds the parties.

(10).  One important term of the contact is the protection of states’ rights, as reflected in the 10th Amendment (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”).

The government of the great State of North Carolina, on behalf of its People and for their protection and liberty interests, declares the following political posturing with respect to the federal government:

(1).  That the federal government was created and vested with specified powers that are “limited and defined” for the general management of the independent states but not for the internal regulation of their people and their affairs; the latter are matters rightfully left to the states themselves. To assume otherwise would be to define the government as a national one; yet that scheme was roundly rejected by the states.

(2).  That the several states of the United States, and particularly the State of North Carolina, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to general government; rather, by ratifying the federal Constitution and Bill of Rights, they designed, created, and constituted a general government for special purposes and delegated to that government certain definite powers, while reserving to themselves all other rights.

(3).  That when the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are void and of no force; they are unenforceable by the states

(4).  That the government created by the federal Constitution and the Bill of Rights was not granted the right to determine the extent of the powers delegated to itself, since that would have made its discretion, and not the federal Constitution and Bill of Rights, the measure of its powers.

(5).  There are various examples of constitutional over-reach and abuse by the federal government which have already burdened the sovereign rights and interests of the State of North Carolina, as well as its People, including:

(a)  the federal power to punish crimes, under the Constitution, is limited to treason, counterfeiting of the securities and current coin of the United States, piracies, felonies committed on the high seas, offenses against the law of nations, and slavery.  The government is not authorized to punish any other crimes, and the Constitution been amended to include others.  Therefore, all acts of Congress that assume to create, define, or punish crimes, other than those enumerated in the federal Constitution, exceed the scope of the federal compact and are void and of no force.  The power to create, define, and punish other crimes is reserved by the states.

(b)  the individual rights of freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are beyond the reach of the federal government and therefore reserved to the states or the people, allowing states the power to judge the appropriate scope of each right. All acts of Congress and decisions of the federal courts that abridge freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press violate the federal compact and are not law and are void.  [Furthermore, the Supreme Court introduced a legal fiction – the “Wall of Separation” doctrine – into First Amendment jurisprudence to abridge the right of religion and thereby frustrate the states in their ability to legislate morality, which is a legitimate state police power].

(c)  the power over the freedom of the right to keep and bear arms was reserved to the states and to the people, allowing states the right to judge how far infringements on the right to bear arms should be tolerated, rather than allowing that exercise to be defined by Congress. All acts of Congress and decisions of the federal government that attempt to abridge this freedom will violate the federal compact and will be deemed null and void and unenforceable.

(d)  that Congress has usurped the meaning of certain phrases of the federal Constitution, such as those phrases that delegate to Congress a power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States” and “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof,” in order to unilaterally concentrate its powers and destroy the limits placed on its authority.

(e)  that Congress and the President have usurped the Constitution’s war powers.  The Constitution divides war powers between the Congress and the President.  This division was intended by the framers to ensure that wars would not be entered into easily or unnecessarily send our citizens into battle. The Constitution’s division of powers leaves the President with some exclusive powers as Commander-in-Chief (such as decisions on the field of battle) and Congress with certain other exclusive powers (such as the ability to declare war and appropriate dollars to support the war effort).  The federal government has committed US forces without formal declarations of war.  With such laws as the Military Authorization Act and National Defense Authorization Acts, the government has done an end run on the Constitution by declaring an undefined “war on terrorism” (where “terrorism” is not a defined enemy or country, but a “tactic”) and extending the battlefield to our very United States. By defining the US as a battlefield, the government is claiming it has the power to apply the laws of war over the protections of the Bill of Rights.

(f)  that the federal government has created a new power for itself – the power to declare American citizens as “enemy combatants” in order to detain them indefinitely and suspend the protections protected for them in the Bill of Rights.  “Enemy combatants” are defined by the government as those who fight or engage in hostilities against the United States.  What constitutes conduct that justifies “enemy combatant” status is not clear. It appears that the US Constitution already addresses the situation where an American engages in hostilities against the United States or gives aid and support to an enemy. It is called “treason” and is addressed in Article III, Section 3. The government is already given the power to deal with treason and is given precise guidelines to prosecute traitors. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) relies on this “new” (and unconstitutional) power in order to expand the government’s defense power.

(g)  that the federal government was created to perform common functions for all states and not to use its powers to spy on American citizens, such as patrolling the skies with drones, monitoring speech, evaluating the extent of property, and establishing political profiles.

(h)  that the US Supreme Court exceeded its power under Article III of the Constitution in the healthcare decision of June 28, 2012 (National Federation of Independent Business v. Sibelius) by expanding Congress’ taxing power rather than confining it within the scope of Article I, according to the intent of the provision (James Madison believed that the true meaning of the Constitution was to be found in the state ratifying conventions, for it was there that the people, assembled in convention, were instructed with regard to what the new document meant. Thomas Jefferson agreed as well.  He said: “Should you wish to know the meaning of the Constitution, consult the words of its friends.”).  With the decision, the Supreme Court re-characterized the Individual Mandate as a tax and not a “penalty” (as Congress itself defined) and said Congress is within its power “to impose a tax on those who have a certain amount of income but choose to go without health insurance.” The decision seems to disregard the fairness notion of “equal application of the laws.”  While the government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance, the Court says it has the power to impose a tax to force people to do so.  In other words, the decision says that the government has unlimited power to use its taxing power to coerce Americans into conduct it desires; it has unlimited power to control every economic decision that every individual makes. This is a grave violation of the Liberty guarantee outlined in the Declaration of Independence. [There is another constitutional violation. Article I, Section 7, clause 1 of the Constitution say that all bills that raise revenue must originate in the House. The healthcare bill, which includes at least 21 embedded taxes to raise revenue to fund the healthcare scheme, originated in the Senate, as H.R. 3590.  Reminded of the offensiveness of the Stamp Act of 1765, imposed by King George, the Founders drafted the Constitution to require that taxes and tax increases originate in the House of Representatives. That is to say, they must originate in the legislative body most accountable to the people, where legislators must weigh the need for the tax against the terrible price they might pay at their next election, which is never more than two years off.  In  Federalist No. 58, James Madison defended the decision to give the origination power to the House on the ground that the Chamber that is more accountable to the people should have the primary role in raising revenue.  The Supreme Court, as part of the system of checks and balances, was supposed to “check” the legislative branch on this violation of the Constitution]

(i)  that the federal government has used its taxing power to control and coerce states, and in general, to undermine the powers of the States to regulate under the Tenth Amendment.  If the federal government has the ability to provide funding to the States for projects and policies that it wants to promote (federal grants which are “conditioned”), then it is taxing Americans too heavily. Under concepts of federalism, the government should reduce its federal income tax rate and allow the states the ability to increase its state taxation rate in order to raise the funding for its own projects. This way, states can spend money the way it sees fit for its own people and circumstances and not as the federal government demands.

(j)  That the Executive is using Executive Orders to usurp the legislative powers of Congress when its constitutional powers are limited to those of executing the laws.  As such, many Executive Orders violate the Separation of Powers and blatantly violate the Constitution.

(k)  that the federal government used the events of the secession of the southern states and the Civil War to illegally and unconstitutionally erode the sovereign powers of the individual States. The events leading up to the Civil War and then Reconstruction were so marred with unconstitutional violations that it can be argued that the government and its actions during that time were illegitimate in many respects and therefore not binding on the respective parties (ie, the States).   [For example, President Lincoln took extraordinary liberties with the office of the Presidency in initiating the Civil War and suppressing opposition, in violation of the Constitution – such as ordering actions to initiate hostilities and suspending habeas corpus and having Americans put to death for exercising freedom of speech.  Congress, after the fact, sought to affirm those violations on July 11, 1861 with a Joint Resolution in which it declared Lincoln’s “extraordinary acts, proclamations, and orders” to be “legal and valid” and “necessary for the preservation of the government.” The preservation of government was what was at stake with the signing of the Constitution. Restraining government on the States and the People was. The government cannot violate the Constitution in order to claim to uphold it. The government itself cannot use the Constitution to seek its own immortality.

(l)  that there are numerous other examples of government constitutional over-reach.

(6).  That if North Carolina accepts or continues to accept these violations and inappropriate interpretations, and continues to allow all three branches of the federal government to exercise unbridled authority, it would be surrendering its own form of government.

(7).  That the people of this state will not submit to undelegated and consequently unlimited powers.

(8).  That every state has a right to nullify all assumptions of power by others within their limits, and that without this right, states would be under the dominion and power of anyone who might try to exercise that power.

(9).  That the rights and liberties of North Carolina, and its fellow states, must be protected from any dangers by declaring that Congress is limited by the federal Constitution and Bill of Rights.

(10).  That any act by the Congress of the United States, Executive Order of the President of the United States, or decision/judicial order by a federal court that assumes a power not delegated by the federal Constitution diminishes the liberty of this State and its citizens and violates the federal contract established by the signing of the Constitution.  The State of North Carolina, on behalf of its own sovereignty and the sovereignty of it People, declares that certain reserved state powers will be guarded jealously and aggressively. Acts by the federal government that would be seen as violations of the limited nature of the US Constitution, would be subject to nullification and interposition by the State, and would result in a legitimate breach of the federal compact which ties North Carolina politically to the federal government include, but are not limited to:

(a) establishing martial law or a state of emergency within a state without the consent of the legislature of that state;

(b) requiring involuntary servitude or governmental service other than a draft during a declared war or pursuant to or as an alternative to incarceration after due process of law;

(c) requiring involuntary servitude or governmental service of persons under the age of 18 other than pursuant to or as an alternative to incarceration after due process of law;

(d) surrendering any power delegated or not delegated to any corporation or foreign government;

(e) any act regarding religion, further limitations on freedom of political speech, or further limitations on freedom of the press; or

(f) any act regarding the right to keep and bear arms or further limitations on the right to bear arms, including any restrictions on the type or number of firearms or the amount or type of ammunition any law-abiding citizen may purchase, own, or possess.

(11).  That if any act of Congress becomes law or if an Executive Order or judicial decision/judicial order is put into force related to the reservations expressed in this resolution, North Carolina’s political bond to the federal government under the federal compact (the signing of the Constitution) would be considered breached and all powers previously delegated to the United States by the federal Constitution would revert to the State and the people, respectively.

(12).  That any future government of the United States shall require ratification of three-fourths of the States seeking to form a government and shall not be binding upon any state not seeking to form a government.

(13).  That the Secretary of State send a copy of this law to the President of the United States and to each member of the United States Congress in order that they be put on notice of North Carolina’s position with respect to the Constitution, the government, and the respective rights and responsibilities of each sovereign.

[This proposed State Sovereignty Bill is of course, a bit long-winded…..]

As we celebrate 221 years with the Bill of Rights to protect our fundamental rights from government oppression, we have reason to  221st anniversary of the Bill of Rights, for there can be no better proof of the wisdom of the Framers than the endurance of the Constitution.  We appreciate their brilliance as we witness the oppressive and tyrannical consequences of a government that continually and increasingly abuses the constitutional limits and guarantees that they provided for us.

As we enter into 2013 (our 222nd year with the Bill of Rights), let us realize what the government will force us to do by the end of the year – enroll in a healthcare insurance program or be punished for it.  The government is already forcing millions of Americans to submit to repeated, egregious, and humiliating violations of their fourth amendment rights every time they fly on an airplane or visit a federal facility, forcing religious institutions to violate its own religious tenets, detaining Americans for promoting opposition to government policies, shoring up the indefinite detention provisions for American citizens in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and looking for ways to limit our second amendment rights. These policies of the federal government are no less serious than the policies of King George against the colonies.

In August 2012, a 26-year-old former marine and citizen of the state of Virginia, Brandon Raub, wrote the following posts on facebook: “The idea that men can govern themselves is the basis for every just form of government.” “The bill of rights is being systematically dismantled.” “You elected an aristocracy. They are beholden to special interests. They were brainwashed through the Council on Foreign Relations. Your leaders are planning to merge the United States into a one world banking system. They want to put computer chips in you. These men have evil hearts. They have tricked you into supporting corporate fascism. We gave them the keys to our country. We were not vigilant with our republic….  But there is hope. BUT WE MUST TAKE OUR REPUBLIC BACK.”  For those words, the government showed up at his home, arrested him, committed him involuntarily to a mental hospital, and planned to detain him indefinitely. The government made the decision to take his rights away. (Luckily, his mother and a sharp lawyer were able to fight the unlawful arrest). This happened in Virginia, the state that gave us Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, Patrick Henry, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and the Virginia Resolutions of 1798. This is the state that gave us such fiery speeches as “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!”  This famous speech in 1775 motivated the Virginia Provincial Convention to bear arms against England and then to vote for independence from England. This was a state that would not ratify the Constitution until Madison gave the delegates assurances that he would draft a Bill of Rights and the First US Congress would propose them and then send them to the states.

Fortunately, the world didn’t end on December 21st.  And so, on this 221st anniversary, let us  reflect on what we, as citizens, can do to keep the spirit of the Bill of Rights alive.  As I discussed earlier, one option is to demand that our state legislatures re-assert the sovereignty that our Founders acknowledged in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.  If power is not carefully shared among the states and the federal government and if the states are not willing to stand up to the federal government, then this most powerful of checks and balances is useless and individual liberty is destined to suffer.  We already see it happening before our eyes.

When the federal government takes on functions not permitted to it by the Constitution, in violation of the Tenth Amendment, it is only a matter of time before it will usurp the unenumerated rights of the people, in violation of the Ninth Amendment. When the government can misappropriate the unenumerated rights of the people, it is only a matter of time before it will trample upon their enumerated rights – those most fundamental rights which are explicitly spelled out in the rest of the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights still stands for liberty, even though our government won’t.

A few weeks ago, on December 15, Karen Kwiatkowski gave a speech and said: “I believe the Bill of Rights is the natural companion to the Declaration of Independence. May both of these documents inspire us all to seize the day, and live free. May the Bill of Rights guide us in our lives and work, focus our prayers, broaden our dreams, and lead us to end the tyranny, and restore our badly damaged Republic.”

Let’s hope the government doesn’t arrest and detain her for speaking those words.  And let’s hope that the Bill of Rights, the companion to the Declaration of Independence, continues to inspire us to want to live free.

References:
1791: US Bill of Rights. [With information from James McClellan, Liberty, Order, and Justice: An Introduction to the Constitutional Principles of American Government (3rd ed.); Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000.  http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?Itemid=264&id=574&option=com_content&task=view

Edward Drake, “The Men Who Didn’t Sign the Constitution.”  http://books.google.com/books?id=k9BPrepFvZ4C&pg=PA1101&lpg=PA1101&dq=Who+didn’t+sign+the+Constitution+in+1787?&source=bl&ots=vcQKEJZ_DU&sig=HW_gI_YRM5PRvasqb9ZFKWuXEGc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=liHQUNCILY-08ASk0YG4Cw&ved=0CG0Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=Who%20didn’t%20sign%20the%20Constitution%20in%201787%3F&f=false

Stewart Rhodes, “Oath Keepers Bill of Rights Day Message: Prepare to Fight for Bill of Rights,” December 15, 2012.  Referenced at:  http://oathkeepers.org/oath/2012/12/15/11145/

Montana House Joint Resolution No. 26 Affirming States Rights –http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/2009/billhtml/HJ0026.htm

The Bill of Rights and annotations –  http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights

Patrick Henry’s Opening Remarks at the Virginia Ratification Convention, June 4, 1788 –  http://www.academicamerican.com/revolution/documents/HenryConst.htm

James Madison’s Speech to Congress, June 8, 1789, in which he proposed 20 amendments to the new Constitution –  http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/james-madison-speech-june-8-1789.html

The revision history of Madison’s proposed Bill of Rights (amendments):

(a)  The amendments as James Madison proposed them on June 8, 1789:  http://www.constitution.org/bor/amd_jmad.txt

(b)  The proposed amendments consolidated by the House down to 17 in number and then passed on August 24, 1798:     http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/rbpe:@field(DOCID+@lit(rbpe21200200))

(c)  The Senate product:  On September 21, 1789, a House/Senate conference was called, and the differences between the versions of the two houses were worked out. Madison was one of the House managers in the committee. Several points were agreed upon, and the House was informed of the Senate’s acceptance of the compromise bill on September 25, 1789, the official date of submission of the Bill of Rights to the states.      http://www.usconstitution.net/first12.html

Ratification of the Constitution by North Carolina, November 21, 1788 –http://www.constitution.org/rc/rat_decl-nc.htm

Federalist Papers No. 45 –  http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa45.htm

Federalist Papers No. 58  –   http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa58.htm

Ratification of the Constitution by North Carolina, November 21, 1788 –http://www.constitution.org/rc/rat_decl-nc.htm

Jack Balkin, “The Right Strikes Back: A New Legal Challenge for Obamacare,” The Atlantic, September 17, 2012. Referenced at:  http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/09/the-right-strikes-back-a-new-legal-challenge-for-obamacare/262443/

Allah Pundit, “Say, Doesn’t the Constitution Require Tax Bills to Originate in the House?”, Hot Air, June 28, 2012.  Referenced at:  http://hotair.com/archives/2012/06/28/say-doesnt-the-constitution-require-tax-bills-to-originate-in-the-house/

Joint Resolution – “To Approve and Affirm Certain Acts of the President of the United States for Suppressing Rebellion and Insurrection” –http://www.archive.org/stream/speechofhonlwpow00powe#page/n5/mode/2up%5D

Jane Kwiatkowski, “Bill of Rights, RIP?” Lew Rockwell, December 15, 2012. Referenced at:http://www.lewrockwell.com/kwiatkowski/kwiatkowski291.html

June 16, 1788 (Virginia Ratification Convention): Patrick Henry Demands and Gets a Bill of Rights,” Free Republic, October 17, 2003. Referenced at:http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1003306/posts

“The 14th Amendment: Equal Protection of the Laws or Tool of Usurpation?,” US Congressional Record – House, June 13, 1967; page 15641.

W. Kirk Wood, A Constitutional History: 1776-1833, University Press of America, Maryland (2009).

APPENDIX:

(A) THE BILL OF RIGHTS (with explanation)

The First Amendment: Religious Freedom, and Freedom to Speak, Print, Assemble, and Petition

We hear a good deal nowadays about “a wall of separation” between church and state in America. To some people’s surprise, this phrase cannot be found in either the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Actually, the phrase occurs in a letter from Thomas Jefferson, as a candidate for office, to an assembly of Baptists in Connecticut.

The first clause of the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This clause is followed by guarantees of freedom of speech, of publication, of assembly, and of petitioning. These various aspects of liberty were lumped together in the First Amendment for the sake of convenience; Congress had originally intended to assign “establishment of religion” to a separate amendment because the relationships between state and church are considerably different from the civil liberties of speech, publication, assembly, and petitioning.

The purpose of the “Establishment Clause” was two-fold: (1) to prohibit Congress from imposing a national religion upon the people; and (2) to prohibit Congress (and the Federal government generally) from interfering with existing church-state relations in the several States. Thus the “Establishment Clause” is linked directly to the “Free Exercise Clause.” It was designed to promote religious freedom by forbidding Congress to prefer one religious sect over other religious sects. It was also intended, however, to assure each State that its reserved powers included the power to decide for itself, under its own constitution or bill of rights, what kind of relationship it wanted with religious denominations in the State. Hence the importance of the word “respecting”: Congress shall make no law “respecting,” that is, touching or dealing with, the subject of religious establishment.

In effect, this “Establishment Clause” was a compromise between two eminent members of the first Congress—James Madison and Fisher Ames. Representative Ames, from Massachusetts, was a Federalist. In his own State, and also in Connecticut, there still was an established church—the Congregational Church. By 1787–1791, an “established church” was one which was formally recognized by a State government as the publicly preferred form of religion. Such a church was entitled to certain taxes, called tithes, that were collected from the public by the State. Earlier, several other of Britain’s colonies had recognized established churches, but those other establishments had vanished during the Revolution.

Now, if Congress had established a national church—and many countries, in the eighteenth century, had official national churches—probably it would have chosen to establish the Episcopal Church, related to the Church of England. For Episcopalians constituted the most numerous and influential Christian denomination in the United States. Had the Episcopal Church been so established nationally, the Congregational Church would have been disestablished in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Therefore, Fisher Ames and his Massachusetts constituents in 1789 were eager for a constitutional amendment that would not permit Congress to establish any national church or disestablish any State church.

The motive of James Madison for advocating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was somewhat different. Madison believed that for the Federal government to establish one church—the Episcopal Church, say—would vex the numerous Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Quaker, and other religious denominations. After all, it seemed hard enough to hold the United States together in those first months of the Constitution without stirring up religious controversies. So Madison, who was generally in favor of religious toleration, strongly advocated an Establishment Clause on the ground that it would avert disunity in the Republic.

In short, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was not intended as a declaration of governmental hostility toward religion, or even of governmental neutrality in the debate between believers and non-believers. It was simply a device for keeping religious passions out of American politics. The phrase “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” was meant to keep the Congress from ever meddling in the disputes among religious bodies or interfering with the mode of worship.

During the nineteenth century, at least, State governments would have been free to establish State churches, had they desired to do so. The Establishment Clause restrained only Congress—not State legislatures. But the States were no more interested in establishing a particular church than was Congress, and the two New England States where Congregationalism was established eventually gave up their establishments—Connecticut in 1818, Massachusetts in 1833.

The remainder of the First Amendment is a guarantee of reasonable freedom of speech, publication, assembly, and petition. A key word in this declaration that the Congress must not abridge these freedoms is the article “the”—abridging the freedom of speech and press. For what the Congress had in mind, in 1789, was the civil freedom to which Americans already were accustomed, and which they had inherited from Britain. In effect, the clause means “that freedom of speech and press which prevails today.” In 1789, this meant that Congress was prohibited from engaging in the practice of “prior censorship”—prohibiting a speech or publication without advance approval of an executive official. The courts today give a much broader interpretation to the clause. This does not mean, however, that the First Amendment guarantees any absolute or perfect freedom to shout whatever one wishes, print whatever one likes, assemble in a crowd wherever or whenever it suits a crowd’s fancy, or present a petition to Congress or some other public body in a context of violence. Civil liberty as understood in the Constitution is ordered liberty, not license to indulge every impulse and certainly not license to overthrow the Constitution itself.

As one of the more famous of Supreme Court Justices, Oliver Wendell Holmes, put this matter, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” Similarly, statutes that prohibit the publication of obscenities, libels, and calls to violence are generally held by the courts to conform to the First Amendment. For example, public assemblies can be forbidden or dispersed by local authorities when crowds threaten to turn into violent mobs. And even public petitions to the legislative or the executive branch of government must be presented in accordance with certain rules, or else they may be lawfully rejected.

The Constitution recognizes no “absolute” rights. A Justice of the Supreme Court observed years ago that “The Bill of Rights is not a suicide pact.” Instead, the First Amendment is a reaffirmation of certain long-observed civil freedoms, and it is not a guarantee that citizens will go unpunished however outrageous their words, publications, street conduct, or mode of addressing public officials. The original, and in many ways the most important, purpose of freedom of speech and press is that it affords citizens an opportunity to criticize government—favorably and unfavorably—and to hold public officials accountable for their actions. It thus serves to keep the public informed and encourages the free exchange of ideas.

The Second Amendment: The Right to Bear Arms –

This amendment consists of a single sentence: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Although today we tend to think of the “militia” as the armed forces or national guard, the original meaning of the word was “the armed citizenry.” One of the purposes of the Second Amendment was to prevent Congress from disarming the State militias. The phrasing of the Amendment was directly influenced by the American Revolutionary experience. During the initial phases of that conflict, Americans relied on the militia to confront the British regular army. The right of each State to maintain its own militia was thought by the founding generation to be a critical safeguard against “standing armies” and tyrants, both foreign and domestic.

The Second Amendment also affirms an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. Since the Amendment limits only Congress, the States are free to regulate the possession and carrying of weapons in accordance with their own constitutions and bills of rights. “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms,” observed Justice Joseph Story of the Supreme Court in his Commentaries on the Constitution (1833), “has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of the republic, since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers, and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.” Thus a disarmed population cannot easily resist or overthrow tyrannical government. The right is not absolute, of course, and the Federal courts have upheld Federal laws that limit the sale, possession, and transportation of certain kinds of weapons, such as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. To what extent Congress can restrict the right is a matter of considerable uncertainty because the Federal courts have not attempted to define its limits.

The Third Amendment: Quartering Troops –

Forbidding Congress to station soldiers in private houses without the householders’ permission in time of peace, or without proper authorization in time of war, was bound up with memories of British soldiers who were quartered in American houses during the War of Independence. It is an indication of a desire, in 1789, to protect civilians from military bullying. This is the least-invoked provision of the Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court has never had occasion to interpret or apply it.

The Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizure –

This is a requirement for search warrants when the public authority decides to search individuals or their houses, or to seize their property in connection with some legal action or investigation. In general, any search without a warrant is unreasonable. Under certain conditions, however, no warrant is necessary—as when the search is incidental to a lawful arrest.

Before engaging in a search, the police must appear before a magistrate and, under oath, prove that they have good cause to believe that a search should be made. The warrant must specify the place to be searched and the property to be seized. This requirement is an American version of the old English principle that “Every man’s house is his castle.” In recent decades, courts have extended the protections of this amendment to require warrants for the search and seizure of intangible property, such as conversations recorded through electronic eavesdropping.

The Fifth Amendment: Rights of Persons –

Here we have a complex of old rights at law that were intended to protect people from arbitrary treatment by the possessors of power, especially in actions at law. The common law assumes that a person is innocent until he is proven guilty. This amendment reasserts the ancient requirement that if a person is to be tried for a major crime, he must first be indicted by a grand jury. In addition, no person may be tried twice for the same offense. Also, an individual cannot be compelled in criminal cases to testify against himself, “nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”; and the public authorities may not take private property without just compensation to the owner.

The immunity against being compelled to be a witness against one’s self is often invoked in ordinary criminal trials and in trials for subversion or espionage. This right, like others in the Bill of Rights, is not absolute. A person who “takes the Fifth”—that is, refuses to answer questions in a court because his answers might incriminate him—thereby raises “a legitimate presumption” in the court that he has done something for which he might be punished by the law. If offered immunity from prosecution in return for giving testimony, either he must comply or else expect to be jailed, and kept in jail, for contempt of court. And, under certain circumstances, a judge or investigatory body such as a committee of Congress may refuse to accept a witness’s contention that he would place himself in danger of criminal prosecution were he to answer any questions.

The Fifth Amendment’s due process requirement was originally a procedural right that referred to methods of law enforcement. If a person was to be deprived of his life, liberty or property, such a deprivation had to conform to the common law standards of “due process.” The Amendment required a procedure, as Daniel Webster once put it, that “hears before it condemns, proceeds upon inquiries, and renders judgment only after a trial” in which the basic principles of justice have been observed.

The prohibition against taking private property for public use without just compensation is a restriction on the Federal government’s power of eminent domain. Federal courts have adopted a rule of interpretation that the “taking” must be “direct” and that private property owners are not entitled to compensation for indirect loss incidental to the exercise of governmental powers. Thus the courts have frequently held that rent-control measures, limiting the amount of rent which may be charged, are not a “taking,” even though such measures may decrease the value of the property or deprive the owners of rental income. As a general rule, Federal courts have not since 1937 extended the same degree of protection to property rights as they have to other civil rights.

The Sixth Amendment: Rights of the Accused –

Here again the Bill of Rights reaffirms venerable protections for persons accused of crimes. The Amendment guarantees jury trial in criminal cases; the right of the accused “to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation”; also the rights to confront witnesses, to obtain witnesses through the arm of the law, and to have lawyers’ help.

These are customs and privileges at law derived from long usage in Britain and America. The recent enlargement of these rights by Federal courts has caused much controversy. The right of assistance of counsel, for example, has been extended backward from the time of trial to the time the defendant is first questioned as a suspect, and forward to the appeals stage of the process. Under the so-called “Miranda” rule, police must read to a suspect his “Miranda” rights before interrogation. Only if a suspect waives his rights may any statement or confession obtained be used against him in a trial. Otherwise the suspect is said to have been denied “assistance of counsel.”

The Sixth Amendment also specifies that criminal trials must be “speedy.” Because of the great backload of cases in our courts, this requirement is sometimes loosely applied today. Yet, as one jurist has put the matter, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

The Seventh Amendment: Trial by Jury in Civil Cases –

This guarantee of jury trial in civil suits at common law “where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars” (a much bigger sum of money in 1789 than now) was included in the Bill of Rights chiefly because several of the States’ ratifying conventions had recommended it. It applies only to Federal cases, of course, and it may be waived. The primary purpose of the Amendment was to preserve the historic line separating the jury, which decides the facts, from the judge, who applies the law. It applies only to suits at common law, meaning “rights and remedies peculiarly legal in their nature.” It does not apply to cases in equity or admiralty law, where juries are not used. In recent years, increasingly large monetary awards to plaintiffs by juries in civil cases have brought the jury system somewhat into disrepute.

The Eighth Amendment: Bail and Cruel and Unusual Punishments –

How much bail, fixed by a court as a requirement to assure that a defendant will appear in court at the assigned time, is “excessive”? What punishments are “cruel and unusual”? The monetary sums for bail have changed greatly over two centuries, and criminal punishments have grown less severe. Courts have applied the terms of this amendment differently over the years.

Courts are not required to release an accused person merely because he can supply bail bonds. The court may keep him imprisoned, for example, if the court fears that the accused person would become a danger to the community if released, or would flee the jurisdiction of the court. In such matters, much depends on the nature of the offense, the reputation of the alleged offender, and his ability to pay. Bail of a larger amount than is usually set for a particular crime must be justified by evidence.

As for cruel and unusual punishments, public whipping was not regarded as cruel and unusual in 1789, but it is probably so regarded today. In recent years, the Supreme Court has found that capital punishment is not forbidden by the Eighth Amendment, although the enforcement of capital punishment must be carried out so as not to permit jury discretion or to discriminate against any class of persons. Punishment may be declared cruel and unusual if it is out of all proportion to the offense.

The Ninth Amendment: Rights Retained by the People –

Are all the rights to be enjoyed by citizens of the United States enumerated in the first eight amendments and in the Articles of the original Constitution? If so, might not the Federal government, at some future time, ignore a multitude of customs, privileges, and old usages cherished by American men and women, on the ground that these venerable ways were not rights at all? Does a civil right have to be written expressly into the Constitution in order to exist? The Seven Articles and the first eight amendments say nothing, for example, about a right to inherit property, or a right of marriage. Are, then, rights to inheritance and marriage wholly dependent on the will of Congress or the President at any one time?

The Federalists had made such objections to the very idea of a Bill of Rights being added to the Constitution. Indeed, it seemed quite possible to the first Congress under the Constitution that, by singling out and enumerating certain civil liberties, the Seven Articles and the Bill of Rights might seem to disparage or deny certain other prescriptive rights that are important but had not been written into the document.

The Ninth Amendment was designed to quiet the fears of the Anti-Federalists who contended that, under the new Constitution, the Federal government would have the power to trample on the liberties of the people because it would have jurisdiction over any right that was not explicitly protected against Federal abridgment and reserved to the States. They argued in particular that there was an implied exclusion of trial by jury in civil cases because the Constitution made reference to it only in criminal cases.

Written to serve as a general principle of construction, the Ninth Amendment declares that “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The reasoning behind the amendment springs from Hamilton’s 83rd and 84th essays in The Federalist. Madison introduced it simply to prevent a perverse application of the ancient legal maxim that a denial of power over a specified right does not imply an affirmative grant of power over an unnamed right.

This amendment is much misunderstood today, and it is sometimes thought to be a source of new rights, such as the “right of privacy,” over which Federal courts may establish jurisdiction. It should be kept in mind, however, that the original purpose of this amendment was to limit the powers of the Federal government, not to expand them.

The Tenth Amendment: Rights Retained by the States –

This last amendment in the Bill of Rights was probably the one most eagerly desired by the various State conventions and State legislatures that had demanded the addition of a bill of rights to the Constitution. Throughout the country, the basic uneasiness with the new Constitution was the dread that the Federal government would gradually enlarge its powers and suppress the States’ governments. The Tenth Amendment was designed to lay such fears to rest.

This amendment was simply a declaration that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The Federalists maintained that the Framers at Philadelphia had meant from the first that all powers not specifically assigned to the Federal government were reserved to the States or the people of the States.

The amendment declares that powers are reserved “to the States respectively, or to the people,” meaning they are to be left in their original state.

It should be noted that the Tenth Amendment does not say that powers not expressly delegated to the United States are reserved to the States. The authors of the Bill of Rights considered and specifically rejected such a statement. They believed that an amendment limiting the national government to its expressed powers would have seriously weakened it.

During much of our history, the Tenth Amendment was interpreted as a limitation of the delegated powers of Congress. Since 1937, however, the Supreme Court has largely rejected this view, and the Amendment no longer has the same operative meaning or effect that it once had. [My Note: But the question is this: What right does the Supreme Court, a branch of the federal government, to decide the scope of that government’s powers? The explanation given in the Federalist Papers of Article III’s judicial branch powers is that the Supreme Court had the power to advise and to offer an opinion as to constitutionality.

Rights Versus Duties  –

Some Americans seem to fancy that the whole Constitution is a catalog of people’s rights. But actually the major part of the Constitution—the Seven Articles—establishes a framework of national government and only incidentally deals with individuals’ rights.

In any society, duties are often even more important than rights. For example, the duty of obeying good laws is more essential than the right to be exempted from the ordinary operation of the laws. As has been said, every right is married to some duty. Freedom involves individual responsibility.

With that statement in mind, let us look at some of the provisions of the Bill of Rights to see how those rights are joined to certain duties.

If one has a right to freedom of speech, one has a duty to speak decently and honestly, not inciting people to riot or to commit crimes.

If one has a right to freedom of the press (or, in our time, freedom of the “media”), one has the duty to publish the truth, temperately—not abusing this freedom for personal advantage or vengeance.

If one has a right to join other people in a public assembly, one has the duty to tolerate other people’s similar gatherings and not to take the opportunity of converting a crowd into a mob.

If one enjoys an immunity from arbitrary search and seizure, one has the duty of not abusing these rights by unlawfully concealing things forbidden by law.

If one has a right not to be a witness against oneself in a criminal case, one has the duty not to pretend that he would be incriminated if he should testify: that is, to be an honest and candid witness, not taking advantage of the self-incrimination exemption unless otherwise one would really be in danger of successful prosecution.

If one has a right to trial by jury, one ought to be willing to serve on juries when so summoned by a court.

If one is entitled to rights, one has the duty to support the public authority that protects those rights.

For, unless a strong and just government exists, it is vain to talk about one’s rights. Without liberty, order, and justice, sustained by good government, there is no place to which anyone can turn for enforcement of his claims to rights. This is because a “right,” in law, is a claim upon somebody for something. If a man has a right to be paid for a day’s work, for example, he asserts a claim upon his employer; but, if that employer refuses to pay him, the man must turn to a court of law for enforcement of his right. If no court of law exists, the “right” to payment becomes little better than an empty word. The unpaid man might try to take his pay by force, true; but when force rules instead of law, a society falls into anarchy and the world is dominated by the violent and the criminal.

Knowing these hard truths about duties, rights, and social order, the Framers endeavored to give us a Constitution that is more than mere words and slogans.

Reference: http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights

(B) RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUION by the STATE of NORTH CAROLINA
November 21, 1789.

In Convention, August 1, 1788.

Resolved, That a Declaration of Rights, asserting and securing from encroachment the great Principles of civil and religious Liberty, and the unalienable Rights of the People, together with Amendments to the most ambiguous and exceptional Parts of the said Constitution of Government, ought to be laid before Congress, and the Convention of the States that shall or may be called for the Purpose of Amending the said Constitution, for their consideration, previous to the Ratification of the Constitution aforesaid, on the part of the State of North Carolina.

DECLARATION OF RIGHTS

1st. That there are certain natural rights of which men, when they form a social compact, cannot deprive or divest their posterity, among which are the enjoyment of life, and liberty, with the means of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

2d. That all power is naturally vested in, and consequently derived from the people; that magistrates therefore are their trustees, and agents, and at all times amenable to them.

3d. That Government ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people; and that the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive to the good and happiness of mankind.

4th That no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive or separate public emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator or judge, or any other public office to be hereditary.

5th. That the legislative, executive and judiciary powers of government should be separate and distinct, and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression by feeling and participating the public burthens, they should at fixed periods be reduced to a private station, return into the mass of the people; and the vacancies be supplied by certain and regular elections; in which all or any part of the former members to be eligible or ineligible, as the rules of the Constitution of Government, and the laws shall direct.

6th. That elections of Representatives in the legislature ought to be free and frequent, and all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to the community, ought to have the right of suffrage: and no aid, charge, tax or fee can be set, rated, or levied upon the people without their own consent, or that of their representatives, so elected, nor can they be bound by any law, to which they have not in like manner assented for the public good.

7th. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws by any authority without the consent of the representatives, of the people in the Legislature, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

8th. That in all capital and criminal prosecutions, a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence and be allowed counsel in his favor, and to a fair and speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty (except in the government of the land and naval forces) nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself.

9th That no freeman ought to be taken, imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, privileges or franchises, or outlawed or exiled, or in any manner destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty, or property but by the law of the land.

10th. That every freeman restrained of his liberty is entitled to a remedy to inquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the same, if unlawful, and that such remedy ought not to be denied nor delayed.

11th. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is one of the greatest securities to the rights of the people, and ought to remain sacred and inviolable.

12th. That every freeman ought to find a certain remedy by recourse to the laws for all injuries and wrongs he may receive in his person, property, or character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely without sale, completely and without denial, promptly and without delay, and that all establishments, or regulations contravening these rights, are oppressive and unjust.

13th. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

14th. That every freeman has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures of his person, his papers, and property: all warrants therefore to search suspected places, or seize any freeman, his papers or property, without information upon oath (or affirmation of a person religiously scrupulous of taking an oath) of legal and sufficient cause, are grievous and oppressive, and all general warrants to search suspected places, or to apprehend any suspected person without specially naming or describing the place or person, are dangerous and ought not to be granted.

15th. That the people have a right peaceably to assemble together to consult for the common good, or to instruct their representatives; and that every freeman has a right to petition or apply to the Legislature for redress of grievances.

16th. That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their sentiments; that the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of Liberty, and ought not to be violated.

17th. That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well regulated militia composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe defence of a free state. That standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to Liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by the civil power.

18th. That no soldier in time of peace ought to be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, and in time of war in such manner only as the Laws direct.

19th. That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms ought to be exempted upon payment of an equivalent to employ another to bear arms in his stead.

20th. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience, and that no particular religious sect or society ought to be favoured or established by law in preference to others.

AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION

I. THAT each state in the union shall, respectively, retain every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this constitution delegated to the Congress of the United States, or to the departments of the Federal Government.

II. That there shall be one representative for every 30.000, according to the enumeration or census, mentioned in the constitution, until the whole number of representatives amounts to two hundred; after which, that number shall be continued or increased, as Congress shall direct, upon the principles fixed in the constitution, by apportioning the representatives of each state to some greater number of people from time to time, as population encreases.

III. When Congress shall lay direct taxes or excises, they shall immediately inform the executive power of each state, of the quota of such State, according to the census herein directed, which is proposed to be thereby raised: And if the legislature of any state shall pass a law, which shall be effectual for raising such quota at the time required by Congress, the taxes and excises laid by Congress shall not be collected in such state.

IV. That the members of the senate and house of representatives shall be ineligible to, and incapable of holding any civil office under the authority of the United States, during the time for which they shall, respectively, be elected.

V. That the journals of the proceedings of the senate and house of representatives shall be published at least once in every year, except such parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances, or military operations, as in their judgment require secrecy.

VI. That a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of the public money shall be published at least once in every year.

VII. That no commercial treaty shall be ratified without the concurrence of two-thirds of the whole number of the members of the Senate: And no treaty, ceding, contracting, or restraining or suspending the territorial rights or claims of the United States, or any of them or their, or any of their rights or claims to fishing in the American seas, or navigating the American rivers shall be made, but in cases of the most urgent and extreme necessity; nor shall any such treaty be ratified without the concurrence of three-fourths of the whole number of the members of both houses respectively.

VIII. That no navigation law, or law regulating commerce shall be passed without the consent of two-thirds of the members present in both houses.

IX. That no standing army or regular troops shall be raised or kept up in time of peace, without the consent of two thirds of the members present in both houses.

X. That no soldier shall be enlisted for any longer term than four years, except in time of war, and then for no longer term than the continuance of the war.

XI. That each state, respectively, shall have the power to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining its own militia whensoever Congress shall omit or neglect to provide for the same. That the militia shall not be subject to martial law, except when in actual service in time of war, invasion or rebellion: And when not in the actual service of the United States, shall be subject only to such fines, penalties, and punishments as shall be directed or inflicted by the laws of its own state.

XII. That Congress shall not declare any state to be in rebellion without the consent of at least two-thirds of all the members present of both houses.

XIII. That the exclusive power of Legislation given to Congress over the federal town and its adjacent district, and other places, purchased or to be purchased by Congress, of any of the states, shall extend only to such regulations as respect the police and good government thereof.

XIV. That no person shall be capable of being president of the United States for more than eight years in any term of sixteen years.

XV. That the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme court, and in such courts of admiralty as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish in any of the different states. The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity, arising under treaties made, or which shall be made under the authority of the United States; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other foreign ministers and consuls; to all cases of admiralty, and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more stares, and between parties claiming lands under the grants of different states. In all cases affecting ambassadors, other foreign ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be a party; the supreme court shall have original jurisdiction, in all other cases before mentioned; the supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction as to matters of law only, except in cases of equity, and of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, in which the supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make. But the judicial power of the United States shall extend to no case where the cause of action shall have originated before the ratification of this constitution, except in disputes between states about their territory; disputes between persons claiming lands under the grants of different states, and suits for debts due to the united states.

XVI. That in criminal prosecutions, no man shall be restrained in the exercise of the usual and accustomed right of challenging or excepting to the jury.

XVII. That Congress shall not alter, modify, or interfere in the times, places, or manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, or either of them, except when the legislature of any state shall neglect, refuse or be disabled by invasion or rebellion, to prescribe the same.

XVIII. That those clauses which declare that Congress shall not exercise certain powers, be not interpreted in any manner whatsoever to extend the powers of Congress; but that they be construed either as making exceptions to the specified powers where this shall be the case, or otherwise, as inserted merely for greater caution.

XIX. That the laws ascertaining the compensation of senators and representatives for their services be posponed in their operation, until after the election of representatives immediately succeeding the passing thereof, that excepted, which shall first be passed on the subject.

XX. That some tribunal, other than the senate, be provided for trying impeachments of senators.

XXI. That the salary of a judge shall not be increased or diminished during his continuance in once, otherwise than by general regulations of salary which may take place, on a revision of the subject at stated periods of not less than seven years, to commence from the time such salaries shall be first ascertained by Congress.

XXII. That Congress erect no company of merchants with exclusive advantages of commerce.

XXIII. That no treaties which shall be directly opposed to the existing laws of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be valid until such laws shall be repealed, or made conformable to such Meaty; nor shall any Meaty be valid which is contradictory to the constitution of the United States.

XXIV. That the latter part of the fifth paragraph of the 9th section of the first article be altered to read thus,-Nor shall vessels bound to a particular state be obliged to enter or pay duties in any other; nor when bound from any one of the States be obliged to clear in another.

XXV. That Congress shall not directly or indirectly, either by themselves or thro’ the judiciary, interfere with any one of the states in the redemption of paper money already emitted and now in circulation, or in liquidating and discharging the public securities of any one of the states: But each and every state shall have the exclusive right of making such laws and regulations for the above purposes as they shall think proper.

XXVI. That Congress shall not introduce foreign troops into the United States without the consent of two-thirds of the members present of both houses.

SAM JOHNSTON, President

Reference: Ratification of the Constitution by North Carolina, November 21, 1788 –http://www.constitution.org/rc/rat_decl-nc.htm

On the Eve of the Most Important Election of Our Lifetime – Let’s Hope We Get it Right

     by Diane Rufino, November 5, 2012

When a curious woman approached Benjamin Franklin as he was leaving the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in September 1787 and asked him what kind of government the delegates had given the people, he replied: “…A Republic, Ma’am, if you can keep it.”  That’s hopefully what we’re doing here, with this forum, and other such forums around the state and around the country…   we’re learning how to keep our republic.

Once the Constitution was ratified by the States, the American experiment began. The Constitutional republic that our Founders envisioned and provided became a place of freedom and opportunity for countless millions of people from all over the world. The experiment was successful because our system was based on enduring principles which recognized that human beings, although imperfect, are capable of excellence when left to pursue happiness while endowed with certain liberties that their government is obligated to protect and while also enjoying a government that was designed to step aside to allow the human spirit to soar. Here in this country, for the first time, human rights were grounded on the grand notion that man is born with certain God-given rights and not on the premise that rights are granted by government. Furthermore, our Founders declared that government is created by the people for the People, for their own convenience and for the protection of their most fundamental, God-given rights – to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Our Founders knew that the best way to protect those rights was to have a limited government, of defined powers, and dependent upon the consent of the people, who themselves, would understand and cherish those principles.

As we look around the world and notice how difficult it is for democracy and freedom to take hold and flourish, our country seems like a political miracle.  It is indeed a terrible, but awesome, burden that we carry for all people yearning to be free and independent to make sure that our experiment proves to be on solid ground, on solid principles, and therefore a continued success story.  We may be Republican or Democrat or Independent or Libertarian, but it is our collective faith in our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, that makes us American.

In 1776, Thomas Jefferson drafted a Declaration of Independence that would come to define our nation. It continues to be our moral compass.  It is a remarkable proclamation of human rights — brilliant in its concept, clarity, and choice of words. The Constitution of the United States is also a remarkable document. It is an extraordinary mix of governmental limits, checks and balances, and divisions – all intended to secure and enlarge for posterity the individual’s sovereignty as proclaimed in the Declaration.  Our Founders made sure to give us a government of limited and clearly-defined responsibilities, reserving to the States the true power over We the Peoplewhere it can be most responsive to us and our interests. The genius of the Founding Fathers was their ability not only to grasp the revolutionary ideas of their time, but also to devise a means of implementing those ideas in practice, a means of translating them from the realm of philosophic abstraction into that of a political reality. This is the unique and grand heritage to which every American citizen is born and to which posterity is entitled.. .  Or as one author of the anti-Federalist papers, Robert Yates, put it: “for ages to come and millions yet unborn.”

We were first introduced to our founding principles when the colonies advanced their cause for separation from Great Britain with the Declaration of Independence.  In their case to a “candid world,” they explained that the American colonies viewed liberty and the role of government in a different way than the British and as such, their society was incompatible with their mother country.  It was within their right of self-determination, they argued, to break their political bonds with the King and Parliament and secede from their union with the mother country and form an independent nation.  In the Declaration, Jefferson wrote: “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

With regard to the colonies’ unique view of liberty and role of government, the Declaration states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness… That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,  –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government.”  Listen to these words..    Written into our first founding document is the profound truth that the power of government comes from the people.  The people are the sovereign beings from which the power and authority of government is derived and for which government must serve.  That was quite different from the approach recognized in other countries — where governments were ruled by the Divine Right of Kings or barbaric tyrants. The rights of the people were always an afterthought.  The Declaration of Independence represented a profound paradigm shift in the understanding of the basis of government.

Thomas Jefferson and our other founders embraced the philosophy of John Locke who in the late 17th century wrote about the rights of Man and the proper purpose and relationship of government.  Locke took the concept of Natural law (Man has rights because of his humanity) and applied it to government, and we see his vision – and indeed his very words – in the Declaration. Jefferson’s second paragraph, in short, was John Locke’s philosophy on government.  But his philosophy was not universally embraced.  In fact, it was quickly replaced by one which stated that the proper role of government was one that created the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. The “Individualist” approach of John Locke was replaced by the “Collectivist” or “Utilitarian” approach of those to follow – such as Jeremy Betham.  Our Founders specifically rejected the collectivist approach and opted for the philosophy which saw each person as unique and endowed with fundamental rights that he can rightfully protect from the plunder, destruction, misappropriation, and misuse by others. In fact, that would be the very basis of our government – to protect the individual rights of Life, Liberty, and Property from the plunder, destruction, misappropriation, and misuse by others – and also by the government itself.  How grateful we should be that of all the countering government philosophies to choose from, they chose the one articulated by John Locke to define our nation.

So how did we get from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution, and how are they related?  The Declaration was essentially a resolution passed by the Second Continental Congress to inform King George III that America had decided to separate from Britain.  It essentially had no legal effect on the colonies, but it did provide a common statement of ideals that the states readily adopted and which they wanted to announce to  the rest of the world. The Preamble makes such bold claims as the following: (1) that “All Men are Created Equal”; (2) that Man has inalienable (nontransferable) natural rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”; (3) that the role of government is to protect those rights; (4) that government is “instituted among men” (representative government) and its power comes from “the consent of the governed” (that is, it has no power except that which the people give it); and (5) that when a government becomes counterproductive of that goal, it is the right and duty of the People to “alter or abolish” that government. The American people cite these provisions as among our founding core principles. But the actual legal basis for our government, including its scope as well as its limits, comes from the Constitution. The Constitution defines the legal relationship between the individual and his government. The Constitution that was drafted in Philadelphia and signed on September 17, 1787 was only a proposal to the states. It was the states which had to agree to the terms and ratify it so that the federal government thus created could carry out mutually beneficial services in order that they could function as a Union rather than 13 independent states. And only after proper explanations and guarantees of  the limited nature of the Constitution, assurances that the states would not lose any sovereign powers not duly delegated, and a promise that a Bill of Rights would be added, the states finally adopted the document.

Relying on Locke and other brilliant thinkers (including Montesquieu on the “Separation of Powers” and “Checks and balances” doctrines and Adam Smith on free markets), our Founders indeed came up with a unique, magical formula, not embraced in any other country, which, with every detail, limits government and enlarges individual liberty like never before.  That unique formula, in a sentence, is this:  Maximum Liberty = Minimum Government.  Our Founders took those human rights and liberties that the British had fought so long and hard to keep from the reaches of the King and secured them more firmly for us – by acknowledging the sovereignty of the individual as the basis of community and government.  Individual liberty is not secure when government cares more about its own interests than those of the People.

Though battered and bruised, the Constitution of the United States still remains the framework for our nation’s government.

After decades of detachment from what’s been going on in government and in the courts and generations of ignorance of our founding documents, we are turning back to the principles that define us as “the land of the free.”  But what we’ve realized is that while we’ve been busy living our lives, enjoying the comfort that no other nation in the world offers, and trusting that the government has been educating us on important lessons about our country in the public school system,  the Constitution had being eroded and shredded. We wonder if it still protects our fundamental rights as strongly as it was intended.  We wonder if it will be intact and will have the integrity in the future to protect the rights and interests of our children and grandchildren, or will it just continue to be clay in the hands of an ambitious government.  I believe the Constitution is so fundamentally re-interpreted and is so radically altered with such amendments as the 14th, 16th, and 17th that we may never get back the protections of liberty that our Founders tried so hard to secure in the Constitutional Convention and the state Ratification Conventions. We have lost vital government “checks and balances” elements with those amendments, including the total destruction of one of the fundamental pillars of government – the equal protection of each person’s property.  I believe our real concern right now is whether the government will now try to erode our more precious document – the Declaration of Independence. We can already see how it is transforming our system from an “individual” centered model to a “collectivist” or “utilitarian” one.

This issue is an important one –  LIBERTY MUST BE PROTECTED AND DEFENDED.  The task falls to We the People.  Liberty must be deserved or no free society can long survive. So how will we know when we deserve it?  First, we must be good enough as human beings to be trusted with liberty because with it comes great responsibility. And second of all, we must protect it from “injuries and usurpations,” particularly by our own government.  That means we must be eternally vigilant and responsible in our election of representatives. We must be educated and informed and we must hold their feet to the fire.  After all, the greatest check on government is accountability to the American people and the power of the ballot box.  The words that should guide and motivate every American are those that Ronald Reagan spoke to us: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

The Constitution was indeed written for those who have the most to lose and therefore would have the greatest incentive to be vigilant, educated, and decent –  We the People. We were supposed to keep an eye on our government.  We were supposed to be responsible depositories of power.  We were supposed to be a good and moral and religious people – a people who lived decent, restrained, law-abiding lives who required little government over them and therefore could be trusted with the government that our Founders gave us and capable of passing liberty on to successive generations.

Although we hear arguments today by atheists and agnostics who disavow the role of Christianity in the founding of our nation, our founding settlers and Founding Fathers knew the real role of religion. There may have been no place for religion in our Constitution (for then we would be duplicating the religious oppression of the King and his National Church of England), but it was intended to serve a critical role in the lives of those who sought to remain free.  Only a moral and religious people are fit for liberty.  John Adams and George Washington gave us this advice.  A moral and religious people have no need for a big government.  A moral and religious people need few laws to regulate them for their conduct is decent and ethical. Only a society that places proper emphasis on religion and morality can expect to secure liberty for themselves and their posterity. England’s Lord Acton wrote: “Liberty is the prevention of control by others. This requires self-control and therefore, religious and spiritual influences, as well as education and knowledge.”  John Adams wrote: “The design of Christianity was not to make men good riddle-solvers or good mystery-mongers, but to make them good men, good magistrates, and good subjects, good husbands and good wives, good parents and good children, good masters and good servants.”  He also wrote: “We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

We know that our country is suffering a constitutional crisis. In fact, we often question whether our representatives even know what the Constitution says or means. But in this crisis, we are learning the true brilliance of that document for we can see the direct consequences of a government that has refused to abide by its limits.

It’s no secret that the size and scope of government has dramatically increased. For example, in the last decade, private sector jobs increased by only 1%.  Federal jobs, on the other hand, increased by more than 15%.  The fact is that while people were losing their jobs and families were struggling to keep their homes and put food on their tables, government was growing.  And while ordinary folks, like all of us, just wanted to work and protect and build our businesses, Congress used the recession to grow government. Congress has used every opportunity to grow government.  Both Republicans and Democrats have been complicit.  We all know that government positions pay a lot better than private sector jobs and they’re much more likely to be secure. After all, as Reagan said, the closest thing to eternal life is a government bureau.

Do you think people who work for the government will vote for spending cuts?  Do you think they’ll vote to eliminate government jobs and therefore decrease the size of government?  Approximately 16% of the voting population work for government.  Most people have at least one person close to them – a spouse, a parent, a child – who holds such a job and will therefore most likely vote with them so they can keep their job… especially in this economy.  So that means that at least 32% of voters will vote to support the current size of government..   When that number reaches 50%, then its GAME OVER.  Big government will be here to stay and the fundamental transformation of government, which we know will threaten individual liberty, will have taken place……  not by rebellion, not by protest.. not by evil intent.. but by stealth.

Today, most ‘laws’ actually are rules and regulations enacted by bureaucrats in government agencies, not statutes passed by elected lawmakers.  Even when Congress does pass legislation, such as the Dodd-Frank financial reform law or Obamacare, lawmakers leave many blanks and expect rule-makers to fill them in. That means the bureaucracy, staffed with federal ‘experts,’ essentially exists as an unelected fourth branch of government.  There are over 1,300 government departments and agencies. It is said that there are so many rules and regulations that any one of us, at any given time, is breaking at least one of them.  If the government wanted to come after you for any reason, they can surely find one.

Furthermore, under the guise of an undefined War on Terror (which is not a country or a defined enemy, but a tactic), the all three branches are turning the watchful eyes of government inward, on We the People. First of all, there is the official Homeland Security Report – the “Rightwing Extremism” Report – issued in April 2009 which says that conservative groups such as veterans, gun rights groups, religious groups, constitutional groups, and those who dare to express frustration with government are potential “domestic terrorists” who pose a greater threat of violence in this country than radical Islamists. Apparently, the easiest way to get on that list is to go around mentioning the Founding Fathers, or dare to cling to your guns and religion. The president has expanded his powers under the Patriot Act, in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) so that now he can target American citizens with indefinite detention, torture, and even death by simply accusing them of being enemies of the state. He has personally killed at least two American citizens by drone attack…. denying them habeas corpus or the benefit of charging them with a crime.

You might ask: Isn’t the Supreme Court supposed to define what is constitutional and isn’t it supposed to protect our rights?  Well, consider this:  In 2008, the Supreme Court decided an extremely important case called District of Columbia v. Heller, a second amendment rights case.  It was a narrow 5-4 decision.  The 4 liberal justices wanted to support the government’s right to regulate gun ownership and ban guns when they see fit.  They don’t believe the second amendment gives individuals the right to own and bear arms. They believe that individuals have that right only when they are part of a militia.  Our second amendment rights are only very narrowly protected at this point by the Supreme Court. The government claims that even though the second amendment has been upheld, the Court left open the scope of that right. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has publicly stated that she wants the issue to come before the high court again when another liberal justice has been appointed by President Obama so that “they can get it right.”  If this doesn’t concern you, consider the healthcare decision which I’m sure felt like a sucker punch to your gut.  I know it took my breath away.  When you look at those Supreme Court decisions that evidence a clear departure from our founding intention to create a limited government, this is one of them.  With that decision, Justice John Roberts has announced that not only can the government tax us when we engage in certain conduct but it can also tax us on what we don’t do.  What good is your freedom when your conduct is no longer that of your own choosing?  What good is it to hold the title to property when the government holds the power over the life and death of that property?

Forgive me if I appear suspicious of the federal courts.  Thomas Jefferson warned us about the power of Supreme Court and the inherent corruptibility of an institution vested with great power but ruled by men motivated by the same interests and political ambitions as ordinary men.  He accused them of coming too close to playing God.  He described the Supreme Court as working, like gravity, day and night, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, until it finally usurps all the power from the States and hands it to the federal government.

Our Founders separated government power into three branches of government — legislative, executive and judicial — so that they would check each other…  not so they can conspire with each other to destroy our liberty interests.  Each branch was supposed to keep each other in line, not look the other way.  Our Constitution has managed to hold up for more than two centuries, with only occasional modifications through the years.  Those are the 27 amendments.  As the Constitution dictates, it is the amendment process outlined in Article V that is the proper way to make changes to the document; NOT by judicial interpretation and NOT by re-classifying the Constitution as a LIVING DOCUMENT.

Patrick Henry once said: “A monstrous national government was not the solution….  Many had to die to be free from such a regime.”

200 years ago, our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to pursue the course for liberty.  Today, our politicians routinely sell out their sacred honor for the chance to become career politicians.  And just as sad, we have a huge segment of the voting population who has abandoned the promise of liberty for the security of a government check or government service.

Without liberty, we are slaves. Maybe not to be constrained with whips and chains, but rather with rules and regulations, conditions, taxation, fines, and imprisonment.  If we can accept that, then we are ready for a master and deserve one. On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry stood before the Virginia House of Burgesses, to address the growing tensions between the colonies and Britain and to urge the body to adopt a resolution to organize a state militia.  He said: “The question before the House is one of dire importance to this country. I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery.”  He ended that speech with the immortal words: “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”

In that speech he talked about the futility of petitioning a government that has no intention of respecting the rights of the people or giving up its power over them. The colonies tried reasoning with King George for 10 years.  Patrick Henry said: “We have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming. We have complained, we have protested, we have petitioned; we have pleaded; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and we have implored the British ministry to step in on our behalf to arrest the tyrannical hands of the King and Parliament.”

I summon the words of Patrick Henry not to urge dissent but rather to remind us of what the American Revolution was all about. It was about liberty.  I also hope his stirring words will help get us off the couch and active once again in our government and to engage us in solutions.

The bottom line is that we have to scale back the size and scope of government.

It’s no longer a topic for discussion. It’s a moral imperative.  If we want to preserve liberty for our children and grandchildren, then we have to scale back government.  We can’t trust government to take the initiative to divest its expanded powers or to restore the proper constitutional balance of power – which is defined in the 9th and 10th Amendments.  Throughout the years, on every occasion, the three branches of the federal government have sought to enlarge its powers, not constrain or restrain them.  Thomas Jefferson knew this would happen.  Within the first years of our new republic, as government was already re-interpreting the Constitution, he asked: “What can we do when the government – all three branches – refuses to be bound by the limits of the Constitution?  He told us there are 3 options:  Judicial review (that is, take our chances with the federal courts), secession, or nullification. The courts, he reasoned, could not be trusted.  In 1820, after witnessing how the Supreme Court was working with great speed to re-interpret the Constitution, he wrote: “To consider the Judges of the Superior Court as the ultimate arbiters of constitutional questions would be a dangerous doctrine which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. They have with others, the same passion for party, for power, and for the privileges of their corps – and their power is the most dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the Elective control. The Constitution has elected no single tribunal.  I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves.”  And the following year later, he wrote: “The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary: an irresponsible body, working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed; because, when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”

Jefferson said that secession, while always a viable option, must be viewed as the most extreme measure and avoided at all costs.  But Nullification, he articulated, is the rightful remedy.  It is the remedy grounded firmly in our federal system and legally available by the nature of the compact that brought the states into agreement regarding their common agent – the federal government.  It puts the power in the hands of the parties that had the power to begin with – the states and the People.

People like to dismiss and discredit Nullification by labeling it a racist doctrine. They claim that because the racist Southern Democrats tried to use it in their states to resist the de-segregation mandate imposed by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, it is somehow unconstitutional and not a legitimate doctrine.  Yet these same critics would be happy to accept a decision by the US Supreme Court – a branch of the federal government – that held that negroes are “beings of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and are so far inferior that they have no rights which the white man is bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery.”  [Dred Scott decision, 1857]. Either you accept the right of a state to challenge any act of the federal government that exceeds constitutional bounds (which the southern states did with the Brown decision, as unfortunate as that challenge was), or you resign yourself to the fact that the government is always right, always has the final say, always has the power to define its own limits of power, and always trumps the parties that in fact created it.  Only one position protects liberty.

The responsibility falls upon citizens like us to educate ourselves on Nullification and vet candidates in our state legislature and on the local level who embrace this Jeffersonian remedy.

Probably the most important of our founding principles is this: Government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. We have a bottom-up system, where power derives from the Individual.  Not a top-down scheme. The Constitution is our document to limit government and NOT the government’s document to try to regulate us.   As Patrick Henry wrote: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”  Government serves the interests of the people.  The people are not supposed to serve the interests of government.

Again, the Constitution was written for those who have the most to lose and therefore would have the greatest incentive to be vigilant and educated –  We the People.  And so we must be its faithful guardians. “For those to whom much is given, much is required.” We can’t allow the government to redefine it or abuse it to the point where we the people are left without the means of defending our God-given rights.

We have survived for two and a quarter centuries.  But our republic is in dangerous peril. We are confronted with a fierce urgency and an ideological conundrum.  We stand between the forces that wish to ‘transform‘ America and the forces that wish to ‘restore‘ her.  We all know that transformation implies a contempt or dissatisfaction, whereas restoration implies honor and respect.

The big question, of course, is this:  If we do nothing, what will become of our Inalienable Rights?  Government has already strayed away from its intended purpose.  All levels of government have abused their powers. The federal government is no longer constrained by the document that alone gives it permission and limits on what it can legally do — that is our Constitution.  It no longer protects our Life, Liberty, and Property.  It actively looks for ways to regulate each of our most precious human rights. It attacks our Life with the Obamacare.  It attacks our Liberty with the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the TSA at our airports, and with the Supreme Court’s healthcare decision (since according to Justice John Roberts, the government not only has the power to tax Americans when they engage in certain activities, but they can also tax them when they refuse to engage in conduct that the government wants them to engage in; ie, it has the power to use taxation to coerce people into doing something that the government wants them to do).  And it attacks our Property with the federal income tax system and Agenda 21.  The government’s evil, liberty-killing scheme is funded by the power of plunder that was granted it under the 16th Amendment.  The government plunders our very natural human resources — our Property….   the fruit and improvements of our property, the products of our labor, and the creations of our mind.  Individuals have become pawns of a government that seeks primarily to advance its own agenda rather than serve their individual liberty interests.  And right now, the government is using the economy to control us and advance its socialist/utilitarian agenda.

A government that can create economic stress is in a good position to constrain our liberties. A hungry man thinks about food, not freedom.

Last year Glen Beck wrote this: “The riddle today is the same one faced by our Founding Fathers when they began their experiment.  Societies need government.  Governments elevate men into power, and men who seek power are prone to corruption.  It spreads like a disease.  And sooner or later the end result is always a slide into tyranny. That’s the way it’s always been.  And so this government of the United States, so brilliantly and deliberately structured by our Founders, was designed to keep that weakness of human nature in check.  But it required the people to participate daily, to be vigilant.  And we have not.  It demanded that we behave as though government is our servant, but we have not. So while we slept, the servant has become our master.”

It looks as though the focus of government has shifted on its end and we have barely raised an eyebrow.  The “injuries and abuses” that the colonies would not tolerate from King George are being repeated by our own government but no one has even taken notice or even cares.  Maybe liberty can’t survive.  Maybe it is inherently destructive of its own ends. Maybe complacency is a fatal flaw in human beings. People who suckle at the government teat are not exactly the guardians of liberty that our Founders had in mind.

I want to end with this bit of history:  In his opening speech at the Virginia Ratifying Convention in 1788, Patrick Henry warned:  ”A wrong step now will plunge us into misery and our republic will be lost.”  He pleaded: “Liberty is the greatest of all earthly blessings. Give us that precious jewel and you may take everything else.  There was a time when every pulse of my heart beat for American liberty and which, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of every true American.”  He went on to urge his fellow delegates to regard the Constitution with suspicion and caution.  He feared it might lead to too much government power, at the expense of the States, thereby negating the reason for the American Revolution.

Let those words remain with us: “A wrong step now will plunge us into misery and our republic will be lost. Liberty is the greatest of all earthly blessings.”

Please vote intelligently and responsibility on November 6th.